RTE radio presenter Ronan Collins did his best Buddy Holly impression today at The Sugar Club to encourage everyone of a certain vintage who remembers dancing to Buddy, going to see their favourite showband, or even tuning in to the first ever episode of The Late Late Show, that they need to know about pneumococcal disease. Ronan was joined by musical trio The Bugle Babes for a harmonious trip down memory lane as a part of this winter awareness campaign, aimed at those aged 65 and over who are at increased risk of contracting the disease.

Pneumococcal disease is an umbrella term for a range of illnesses caused by a type of bacteria called Streptococcus pneumoniae (also known as the pneumo bug). It is a major cause of serious infection that can lead to death, particularly amongst the elderly, the very young, those who have an absent or non-functioning spleen, those with long term medical conditions*, or those with weakened immunity2.

This year’s awareness campaign, launched today by Sanofi Pasteur MSD, aims to encourage those aged 65 and over and those in the other at-risk groups to be aware of pneumo and to talk to their GP or healthcare professional about vaccination this winter. Research carried out for the campaign shows that less than 1 in 10 (8%) people aged 65 and over know for certain that they have been vaccinated against pneumo, with a further 54% unsure as to whether they received the vaccine, so it is important for those at-risk to speak to their GP. Almost two thirds of those aged 65 and over (64%) were also unaware that pneumo can be life threatening1.

Those aged 65 and over who were surveyed1 as part of this campaign were also asked about their most prominent memories of Irish life from the 50’s and 60’s;
• 42% said that Showbands are the stand out representation of this period;
• 21% named the launch of The Late Late Show as one of the most memorable moments of the era;
• Seán Lemass was named as the most significant figure of that time by over a third of those surveyed.

Ronan Collins said at today’s launch, “As much fun as it is to pretend to be Buddy Holly for the day, the message behind this campaign is a serious one for those at increased risk. More than half of those aged 65 and over (57%)1 had not even heard of pneumococcal disease let alone how to protect themselves from it. I am very proud to once again be a part of this campaign and work with so many fantastic groups to help increase awareness – the fact that we have such varied patient groups involved shows just how critical it is for people to learn about the pneumo bug and how you can help protect yourself.”

Prof Seamus Sreenan, Consultant Endocrinologist, Connolly Hospital, and Medical Advisor to Diabetes Ireland, said, “The pneumo bug is spread in a similar manner to the common cold – through close contact, coughing and sneezing. Pneumococcal disease can have very serious ramifications and it is important that awareness increases – of those who become infected with pneumo and who go on to develop invasive disease, 1 in 4 will develop pneumonia, 1 in 4 will develop meningitis, and 1 in 10 will die3.

“Those aged 65 and over and young babies are particularly at-risk, as well as those with medical conditions such as diabetes, asthma, chronic liver disease, chronic heart or lung problems for example. The vaccine is available free of charge to these at-risk groups so please ask your GP about it this winter2.”

Five different patient organisations who each represent a different at-risk group, Age Action Ireland, Asthma Society of Ireland, Diabetes Ireland, Irish Patients’ Association and Meningitis Research Foundation, have joined together with Sanofi Pasteur MSD to support this campaign and encourage those at risk to get the facts on pneumo and ask their GP or health professional about vaccination.

Justin Moran, Head of Advocacy and Communications, Age Action Ireland, said, “It is estimated that there are more than 400,000 people in Ireland aged 65 and over who could be at risk from this bug1, 4 We are proud to once again partner with all of these patient groups and urge all older people to speak to their GP about the national vaccination programme.”

Kieran O’ Leary, CEO of Diabetes Ireland, commented at today’s launch, “Contracting pneumococcal disease is an added concern every winter for people with diabetes mellitus, especially for younger children and those over 65 years of age. Contracting pneumococcal disease challenges health but also upsets glyceamic control for an extended period further challenging health. We hope that by lending our voice to this campaign we can increase awareness among our community.”
John Holohan, Head of Communications and Development, Asthma Society of Ireland, said, “More than 470,0005 people are living with asthma in Ireland today and this group are particularly at-risk of contracting pneumo. We strongly encourage our members to look after themselves this winter and get the facts on pneumo.”

Stephen McMahon, Chairman of the Irish Patients Association, said, “I would urge anyone concerned about pneumococcal to visit to see which groups are most at risk and to learn how to protect yourself and your loved ones this winter. You can also ask your GP for information and advice.”

Also commenting at today’s launch was Caroline O’ Connor, Medical Information Officer, Meningitis Research Foundation, “The pneumo bug, if contracted, attacks different parts of the body. If the disease invades the brain it can cause meningitis which is seriously debilitating on a person’s health2. We are proud to once again support this campaign and urge those at-risk to ask their GP about the national vaccination programme.”

Outside of the childhood immunisation programme, pneumococcal vaccination is usually a single vaccination for those in the at-risk groups. If you or a loved one is aged 65 or over or is in one of the at-risk groups, please visit and find out more about the disease, including who is at-risk and how you can help to protect yourself this winter. This online resource offers information on pneumococcal disease and has been developed by Sanofi Pasteur MSD in partnership with Age Action, Asthma Society of Ireland, Diabetes Ireland, the Irish Patients’ Association, and Meningitis Research Foundation.