More than a third of eligible patients in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland still not taking up the free flu jab

More than a third of eligible patients in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland still not taking up the free flu jab

26th September 2017
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Having the flu jab is one of the most important actions that people can take to protect their health in winter. People think flu is just like a bad cold, but in the East Midlands in 2015 15 people died due to influenza and 260 died in England. These figures are likely to be much higher because many more people die from complications caused by flu, such as pneumonia. Despite the risks last year more than a third of eligible patients in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland did not take up the offer of a free flu jab from their GP, leaving thousands of people at risk of catching the potentially deadly illness. Those eligible for the free flu jab from a GP or pharmacist 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 and pregnant women. Those who are a registered carer for a loved one are also eligible for the jab. Primary school children are offered the vaccination through their school. The vaccine does not contain live influenza virus, so it’s not possible to catch the flu from the vaccination. Dr. James Ogle, GP in Hinckley and Bosworth and clinical lead at West Leicestershire CCG said “There are a lot of myths about flu and we know people are worried about getting the vaccination. I hear from my patients that they 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. 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.” “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. If you’re worried about getting the flu jab, please talk to your doctor, who will be able to reassure you, or visit NHS Choices online for more information [1]” Last year only 43% of children aged between 2 and 4 were vaccinated against the flu in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland. Dr Ogle continues “Children struggle more than healthy adults to fight off the flu infection, and are more at risk than any other age group of needing to be admitted to hospital if they catch the flu, so it’s really important to protect them with a vaccination. They can be more likely to spread the infection throughout the community, either through nursery or toddler groups and visiting family members. So getting your child vaccinated not only keeps them safe, but will help to protect your whole family.” 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 Ogle 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.” [1] NHS Choices at http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/winterhealth/Pages/Flu-myths.aspxl