People in Plymouth who are eligible are being urged to have their flu jabs, as figures reveal that last winter four in every ten flu outbreaks in England were linked to schools.
Residents aged 65 and over, pregnant women, people with long term health conditions and children aged 2, 3, and 4, and children in school years 1, 2 and 3, are among the groups being encouraged to get vaccinated.
The flu jab campaign is led by NHS England and is being supported locally by Plymouth City Council, Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust, Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group, and Livewell Southwest. Last year around 1200 people were admitted to Derriford Hospital with flu related illness.
To kick off the campaign in Plymouth, Dr Ruth Harrell, Plymouth City Council’s new Interim Director of Public Health, and Councillor Lynda Bowyer, Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Social Care, have both had their flu jabs and you can watch them talking about it here.
Councillor Lynda Bowyer said: “It is vitally important that anyone who is eligible for the flu vaccination has it every year as the vaccine protects against different strains of flu which can change each year.
“If you’re over 65, or if you are pregnant, or if you have a long term condition, it is really important to get yourself protected. It is also very important that carers get themselves vaccinated also, both to look after themselves and to protect those who they care for.”
Dr Ruth Harrell said: “I have the flu vaccine every year without fail, as I have a long term condition, and I want to make sure that I am protected against flu.
“As well as the injection for adults in all these affected groups, there is now a nasal spray available for children. Flu can be really horrible for young children and they can spread it around the family, but a simple nasal spray can protect them.
“This is offered in schools for children in school years one, two and three, and is offered through your GP for children aged 2,3 and 4 years of age. It is also available through your GP for children with underlying health problems that make them at increased risk of flu.
“If you think you or your child might be in one of the eligible groups. Make sure you talk to your GP practice about the free flu vaccine.”
Professor Greg Dix, Director of Nursing for Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust said: “We support the work being done across Plymouth to encourage people to get vaccinated against seasonal flu. Frontline healthcare workers treat patients from the aforementioned groups on a daily basis and see the effect that flu can have on more vulnerable patients. To protect our patients from transmission of flu in the healthcare setting, the Trust offers yearly flu vaccinations to all of our staff.”
Dr Paul Hardy, Plymouth GP and chair of NHS NEW Devon CCG, said: “Flu is a highly infectious disease. The symptoms include fever, chills, headaches, aches and pains in the joints and muscles, and extreme tiredness. For most healthy people, a bad bout of flu is worse than a heavy cold usually requiring someone to spend a few days in bed.
“However, serious infections, especially in those with underlying health conditions, although less common, can lead to hospitalisation, permanent disability and even death.
“It is really important that everyone takes flu seriously and that all those in the high-risk groups identified have their flu vaccination. You still need one if you had the jab last year – the viruses are constantly changing so we need an annual injection.”
Jan Potter, Acting Head of Health Improvement for Livewell Southwest, said: “Flu can be a very serious condition, particularly for people who are frail, elderly, have a weakened immune system or the very young. People who are eligible for the flu vaccine can receive it free of charge form the GP, some pharmacies, or workplace occupational health provider.
“The more people who have their vaccination, the better, as it reduces the likely spread of flu, and prevents increased demand on health services during the busy winter period. Livewell Southwest is committed to protecting everyone in our community, including staff, their families, visitors and people we provide services for. We Offer all our staff a free flu vaccination to prevent flu spreading to the most vulnerable people we provide services for.”
Who should get vaccinated and why?
- People aged 65 and over – You are eligible for the flu vaccine this year (2016-17) if you are aged 65 and over on March 31 2017 – that is, you were born on or before March 31 1952. So, if you are currently 64 but will be 65 on March 31 2017, you do qualify. It’s free because you need it. Older people are one of the groups that are more vulnerable to the effects of flu.
- People with Long Term Health Conditions – COPD; bronchitis, emphysema; diabetes; heart kidney or liver disease or have suffered a stroke, flu on top of health conditions like these can easily develop into something very serious and could land you in hospital. Don’t put off getting the flu vaccination. It’s free because you need it.
- Carers – If you are the main carer of an older or disabled person you may be eligible for the free flu jab, speak to your GP.
- Pregnant women – The flu jab is the safest way to help protect you and your baby against flu. Pregnancy naturally weakens the body’s immune system and as a result flu can cause serious complications for you and your baby. You may be less able to fight off infections, increasing the risk of becoming ill as a result of flu.
- Children aged two, three and four on August 31 2016– that is, children born between September 1 2011 and August 31 2014 – The flu vaccine can help protect your child from flu and also reduce the chance of flu spreading to others.
- Children in school years one, two and three– The flu vaccine can help protect your child from flu and also reduce the chance of flu spreading to others.
For more information visit www.nhs.uk/staywell
You can also watch the video of Cllr Lynda Bowyer and Dr Ruth Harrell here: