Now is the time to start thinking about protecting your health over winter with a flu vaccination.
Many GP practices across east and west Suffolk and north east Essex will soon be holding flu vaccination clinics for their registered patients – and those people in at-risk groups are being encouraged to attend.
Many pharmacies also provide NHS flu vaccinations for those in at-risk groups aged 18+.
For many a bout of flu will result in symptoms such as headaches, aches, pains and tiredness. However, for people in at-risk groups flu can have serious consequences, leading to existing health conditions getting worse or the development of an illness such as bronchitis or pneumonia. It is important for eligible young children to have the vaccination to prevent the spread of flu to other at-risk family members.
You are entitled to a free NHS flu vaccination if you are:
-Aged 65 years or over (*or born on or before March 31 1955)
-Receiving a carer’s allowance or are a carer of an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if you fall ill
-Living in a long-stay residential care home or other long-stay care facility
-Aged between six months and 65 years and have a heart problem, a chest complaint or breathing difficulties, lowered immunity due to disease or treatment, liver disease, had a stroke or transient ischaemic attack (TIA), diabetes, a neurological condition or a problem with or removal of the spleen e.g. sickle cell disease
-A child aged 2 – 3
-A child at primary school
-A frontline health or social care worker
People in at-risk groups are encouraged to ask at their GP practice or pharmacy about having a flu vaccination.
Dr Mark Shenton, a GP in Stowmarket and chairman of NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Every year I hear of cases where people who have chosen not to have a flu vaccination succumb to serious illness and sometimes even a hospital stay.
“No one wants to get ill and that’s why I encourage everyone who is in an at-risk group to get protected this winter. Check with your own GP practice on when they’ll be holding flu clinics or talk to your pharmacist.”
Dr Christopher Browning, a GP in Long Melford and chairman of NHS West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Now is the time to start the conversation about the importance of flu vaccinations. Talk to older relatives and neighbours. If your daughter, wife or sister is pregnant they need to recognise the need to protect their own health and that of their unborn baby. If you have young grandchildren, talk to their parents.
“Don’t be shy in starting the conversation. Flu can lead to serious complications like middle ear infections in children, and pneumonia or bronchitis for those with underlying health conditions, and in some cases it can be fatal.
Dr Hasan Chowhan, a GP in Colchester and chairman of NHS North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Flu vaccination is absolutely vital for at-risk groups and is the best way to protect your health ahead of flu season. In vulnerable people such as pregnant women or those with long-term conditions, flu can result in severe complications that can be fatal.
“It is important to remember that flu is more than just a ‘bad cold’ – it is a highly infectious viral illness. Those who have regular contact with vulnerable people, including carers, frontline healthcare workers and young children, may spread the illness, even if they have no symptoms.
“The flu vaccine is free for at-risk groups and is available at a range of convenient locations, including pharmacies and GP surgeries. Please ensure that you protect your health and the health of your family by having the vaccine at the earliest opportunity.”
Tania Farrow, Chief Officer, Suffolk Local Pharmaceutical Committee, said: “Taking care of ourselves is always important but when you also have responsibility for the care of someone else, it is more important still. If you have caring responsibilities, speak to your local pharmacy or your GP practice about getting a flu vaccination. Community pharmacies are often open on evenings and weekends and may be able to provide a walk in appointment making it easier for you to look after yourself.”
Cllr James Reeder, Suffolk County Council Cabinet Member for Health and Prevention, said: “It’s all too easy to put off the vaccination due to other commitments. However, flu is a nasty illness that can leave its sufferers out of action for some time and can even cause death.
“Those at particular risk, because they are pregnant, have a health condition or aged 65 years of age or over, as well as carers all qualify for a free vaccination. If you are eligible for the flu vaccine get it now – it’s free because you need it.
“Getting your flu vaccine is a simple but vitally important way of protecting your health and reducing the spread of flu to friends and loved ones.”
Nick Jenkins, medical director at the West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, said: “As we do every year, we will be encouraging all our staff, in particular frontline and patient-facing, to be vaccinated as soon as is possible. We strongly believe this is the single biggest thing they can do to protect their patients, themselves and their family members from flu. We will have vaccination stations in key areas and peer vaccinators will be out and about in the West Suffolk Hospital and in our community locations.
“The virus is highly infectious and outbreaks can happen quickly so as we head into winter we must do all that we can to reduce the chances of this happening in our community. We urge all those in at risk groups to get protected and vaccinated against flu as early as possible.”
Find out more about flu and flu vaccinations at https://www.healthysuffolk.org.uk/projects/flu-vaccination
Read this information booklet from Public Health England HERE