In a major drive to protect the community from flu this winter, NHS Blackburn with Darwen and NHS East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) are urging all eligible people to get vaccinated against flu in their refreshed Protect Your Family campaign.
The plea comes to help protect the nation from the double threat of flu and coronavirus (Covid-19) this winter. Whilst the flu vaccination won’t protect against Covid-19 it is critical in protecting the general health of the population, particularly those at high risk from Covid-19. Unfortunately many of the groups who are vulnerable to flu are also more vulnerable to Covid-19.
This year, the flu programme is being expanded with vaccination being offered to more groups than ever in an effort to help protect people from flu and ease pressure on the NHS and urgent care services; a record number of 30 million people will be offered the free flu vaccine. Eligible groups of people who can receive the free vaccination are:
- All 2 and 3 year olds
- All primary school aged children and secondary school Year 7
- Pregnant women
- Those in a clinical at risk group such as those with respiratory (breathing) problems, diabetes, chronic heart, kidney or liver disease (this list is not exhaustive)
- Those aged 65 and over
- Household contacts of those on the NHS Shielded Patient List, or of immunocompromised individuals, specifically individuals who expect to share living accommodation with a shielded patient on most days over the winter and therefore for whom continuing close contact is unavoidable
- Health and social care workers
Dr David White, Clinical Lead for Urgent Care across Pennine Lancashire, said: “This winter more than ever, with Covid-19 still circulating, we need to help reduce all avoidable risks. Vaccinating more people will help reduce flu transmission and stop people becoming ill. It is vital that every contact counts and that all eligible patients are aware of the importance of having a flu vaccination and know where to get it be that GP surgery flu clinic, a local pharmacy, or a visiting district nurse. In particular it is vitally important that children are vaccinated, 2 to 4 years olds need to attend their GP practice whilst school aged children will be vaccinated in school.
“Pregnant women can attend their GP flu clinic or may be offered a flu vaccination at their ante-natal appointment. We need to get the eligible population in the habit of asking about their flu vaccination and where and when they can receive it. GP surgeries are already planning their flu clinics so we are encouraging patients to phone up and book an appointment.
“There are plans to also extend to programme to those aged 50 to 64 but is expected to be offered towards to end of the year.”
Flu is preventable but it can affect anyone and contrary to what many people believe, the flu is not just a bad cold; it’s a serious respiratory illness that can kill. It is a highly infectious illness which spreads rapidly in closed communities and even people with mild or no symptoms can infect others.
Flu is characterised by a fever, chills, headache, aching muscles and joint pain and fatigue. For most healthy people, flu symptoms can make you feel so exhausted and unwell that you have to stay in bed and rest until you get better. However, flu can be deadly. Around 11,000 people die annually due to flu-related complications. Of these deaths, many were in people with underlying conditions. Tens of thousands more are hospitalised.
It is especially important to consider the vaccination if you are the main carer of an older or disabled person, and/or if you live in a residential/nursing home. The vaccination will reduce the chances of getting flu and help stop the spread of the disease to those you care for, and ensure you can continue to help those you look after.
Aside from having your flu vaccine, the best way to prevent the spread of flu is to practice good hand hygiene and good respiratory etiquette. Catch coughs and sneezes in a tissue, throw the tissue away and wash your hands.
If you are unsure whether you are in one of the eligible groups being offered the free flu vaccination, please contact either your GP practice or local pharmacy. More details can also be found online at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/flu/