Local GPs urge higher risk patients to get their flu vaccine

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Local GPs are encouraging people in high risk groups to get their free NHS flu vaccine to help protect them from flu and its potentially serious complications.

This year’s flu vaccination campaign will be the biggest ever, with 25 million people offered vaccines free. GP practices and local pharmacies will be offering the vaccine to eligible patients, and you are advised to book an appointment.

Flu vaccination is part of the Help Us Help You Winter campaign, a joint initiative from NHS England and Public Health England, to help the public ward off common winter illnesses.

Flu can be unpleasant, but if you are otherwise healthy it will usually clear up on its own within a week. However, flu can be more severe in certain people, such as anyone aged over 65, pregnant women, young children and anyone with an underlying health condition.

Around one in three deaths of people with a learning disability are caused by respiratory problems which increase during winter. A flu jab helps avoid preventable deaths during this period, so it’s important more people with a learning disability get vaccinated so they are protected.

This year for the first time every primary school child in England is to be offered nasal spray vaccination against winter flu in an attempt to safeguard them and their family from the virus. Children are considered “super-spreaders”, liable to infect others in their family and a danger to the elderly. All children aged two to 11 will be offered the nasal spray vaccine in the coming weeks.

Tricia D’Orsi, Chief Nurse for NHS Southend and NHS Castle Point and Rochford CCG said:

“If you are eligible for a free flu vaccination, make an appointment to get vaccinated as soon as possible, preferably before the end of November, so you are protected before winter sets in. Flu can lead to more serious illnesses, such as pneumonia. The virus can have health implications for young children, so protecting them can stop flu spreading to other family members. The flu virus changes each year, so you need an annual vaccination to protect yourself against the latest strain.”

The flu vaccine is routinely given on the NHS to:

  • • Adults age 65 and over
  • • People with long term health conditions (such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease)
  • • Pregnant women
  • • Children aged two to 11 years via nasal spray vaccine
  • • Care home residents and their carers
  • • People with learning disabilities and their carers

Your GP can assess you to take into account the risk of flu making any underlying illness you may have worse, as well as your risk of serious illness from flu itself.

Flu cannot be treated with antibiotics. It is caused by viruses. Antibiotics only work against bacteria and a prescription may be given for antiviral medicines to treat flu. Antivirals do not cure flu, but they can make people less infectious to others and reduce the length of time they may be ill. To be effective, antivirals have to be given within a day or two of symptoms appearing. A bacterial infection may occur as a result of having the flu, in which case antibiotics may be prescribed.

Carers for the elderly or disabled should speak to their GP or pharmacist about having a flu jab for themselves and the person they care for.

For more information about the flu vaccination, talk to your GP, practice nurse or pharmacist or midwife, or visit the NHS website.