Influenza Vaccine Attitudes in Amateur GAA Club Footballers.

Dear Editor,
Influenza is a growing public health concern. For a sports person, particularly in elite sport, the impact of developing an influenza infection can be very significant. Infections can often interfere with a sports person’s ability to compete and thus have a negative impact on salaries, team performances, future contracts, etc. This is compounded by the knowledge that high intensity exercise may expose sports persons to a higher infection risk1. In response to this we explored the views of a group of amateur Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) club footballers around the influenza vaccine. Twenty-four amateur club GAA footballers took part in a self-administered questionnaire based study following the 2015/2016 influenza season. Ethical approval was received from Clinical Research Ethics Committee of the Cork Teaching Hospitals. The mean age of the group was 23.7 years (range: 18 – 37) with a variability in past/current experience at inter-county level. Four players had an under lying medical history categorising them within the “high risk” group for influenza e.g. Asthma.

A total of 5 players (21%), with a mean age of 21 years, reported having previously received the influenza vaccine. Only two of the four players (50%) categorised as the “high risk” group have ever received the vaccine, with both also receiving the vaccine during the last influenza season and the influenza season prior to that. During the preceding influenza season 13% (n = 3) received the influenza vaccine, while 17% (n = 4) received the influenza the season prior. The commonest reported reasons for not receiving the vaccine were “I didn’t think of it”, “nobody told me about it” and “I was never offered it”. Exploring instrumental attitudes 6 player’s view getting vaccinated as a “good idea”, “good” by 8 players, “no difference” by 7 players while three players viewed getting vaccinated as either a “bad” or “very bad” idea. Experiential attitude assessment or the emotional reaction of the players to the influenza vaccine showed a general lack of anxiety surrounding the vaccine. Twenty-two players reported “no anxiety” about receiving the vaccine however one player reported being “very anxious” about the influenza vaccine.

Injunctive norms, which hints to normative beliefs regarding what others think one should do, there was confusion among the cohort. Fifteen players reported “don’t know” as to the beliefs of those people important in their lives with regard to receiving the influenza vaccine annually. Interestingly, 6 players (25%) reported a negative belief and three players (12.5%) report a positive belief as to the views of those important in their lives. Descriptive norms, which indicate perceptions about what others in one’s social or personal connections are up to, showed only one player reported it as being “very likely” or “likely” that most club GAA players get vaccinated against the seasonal influenza annually. The author would support an Influenza education campaign targeting sports persons, particularly GAA players, with a possibility of high profile sports personalities as ambassadors.

Mortimer B. O’Connor1,2

Department of Medicine, Mercy University Hospital, Cork, Ireland.
The School of Medicine, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland.
Tel: 021 4935000


  1. Nieman DC. Exercise, infection, and immunity. Int J Sports Med. 1994 Oct;15 Suppl 3:S131-41