Flu might be the last thing on many people’s minds at the moment, but a call is going out to thousands of people living in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland (LLR) not to put their lives at risk by not taking advantage of their free flu vaccination.
In England one in three people are entitled to a free flu vaccination, yet last year only 70% of those eligible in LLR took up the offer, leaving thousands of people at risk of catching the potentially deadly illness rather than have the ‘flu jab’, possibly ending up in A&E or being admitted to hospital.
Those eligible for the free flu jab include the over 65s, those who have a long term health condition, children over the age of six months with a long-term health condition, children aged two, three and four plus children in school years one, two and three, and pregnant women. Those who are a registered carer for a loved one are also eligible for the jab.
Dr. Nick Willmott, GP in Hinckley and Bosworth and clinical lead at West Leicestershire CCG said “Flu is not just a bad cold – it can be extremely serious, even if you’re already fit and healthy when you catch it. For those who already have a long term health condition, are pregnant or are over 65, it can be even more dangerous as your body will struggle more to fight off the illness and you are more at risk of complications such as bronchitis or pneumonia. Children are also more at risk. Don’t risk your health as flu can, and does, kill. It’s vital you have the flu jab if you’re eligible.”
LLR has a take up below the national average for the flu jab for those with long term conditions, including amongst those with cardio-respiratory diseases who would be at particular risk if they were to catch the flu, with only 42% of those eligible taking up the jab last year. Similarly only 42% of children between the ages of 2 and 4 received the vaccine, which can be administered nasally for young patients.
Dr Willmott continues “We know a lot of patients with asthma, particularly when they manage it well, don’t think they need the flu jab to protect them. But the flu can affect your lungs when you have asthma, causing your airways to narrow, which could trigger an attack. So if you suffer from asthma, it’s particularly important to get vaccinated.”
“There are a lot of myths about flu and people worry that the vaccine can give you the flu. This isn’t possible as there is no live influenza virus in the vaccine. Patients also tell me they worry about giving it to their children, or if they are pregnant, the vaccine affecting their baby. Children are more at risk than any other age group of needing to be admitted to hospital if they catch the flu, so it’s extremely important to keep them safe with a vaccination. If you’re pregnant, catching the flu can increase the risk of miscarriage and premature birth, but having the vaccine not only protects you, but also can protect your baby in the first few months of life.”
GP surgeries are booking appointments now for flu clinics for all those who are eligible and the vaccine will soon be available in participating pharmacies as well. Patients who are unsure if they are eligible for the vaccine are encouraged to contact their GP surgery for more information.
Dr Willmott concludes “If you’re eligible, make sure you get the free flu jab from the NHS. It won’t make you ill, and it might save your life.”