4 September 2020
Eligible patients will begin to receive invitations next week to get their annual flu vaccine.
GP practices across Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland are beginning to contact vulnerable patients who meet the new national eligibility criteria to let them know how to access their flu jab this year.
And patients are being urged to take up the offer promptly and protect themselves against the flu this winter.
Dr Nil Sanganee, GP in Leicestershire said: “With the added complication of covid-19 circulating at the same time, having the flu jab will help protect you and your families from being ill and help the NHS to better manage demand this winter.
“The flu virus typically peaks during the winter months and the best way to help protect yourself and others from catching and spreading flu is to have the flu jab every year.
“Flu strains can change from year to year, which means last year’s jab may not protect you from this year’s strains. The vaccine usually provides protection for the duration of that year's flu season.
“Getting vaccinated is important each year but this year more than ever we are urging people to have the vaccine in order to protect themselves, and the NHS, this winter.”
Children aged 2 and 3 years old, plus all primary school aged children and school year 7 in secondary school, will be offered the nasal spray vaccination.
The adult flu vaccine is offered free to those in groups at particular risk of infection and complications from flu.
The groups being offered the adult flu vaccine are:
- Pregnant women
- Those aged 65 or over
- Those aged under 65 with long-term conditions (see list below)
- Shielded patients and those in the same household aged 18 or over
- Pending supply, 50 - 64 year olds will be invited no earlier than November
Dr Sanganee continued: “Due to the pandemic, flu vaccination clinics may be held in a slightly different way this year by each practice and you will be able to get details from your practice website or by calling them.
“Flu vaccines will be released in batches, according to both availability and also the need to prioritise those most at risk. This means flu clinics will be staggered in the months ahead.
“We are asking patients to please book a place in forthcoming flu clinics as soon as they are advertised. Or, you can also visit your nearest participating pharmacy. If you are housebound, please speak to your GP practice.”
Those who do not fall within the eligible categories for a free NHS vaccination will be able to buy a flu vaccine from their local participating pharmacy.
Dr Sanganee said: “This year eligibility for the free flu vaccination has been extended to everyone aged 50 to 64 years, but people in this age group won’t be vaccinated until November and December, providing there is sufficient vaccine. We won’t offer appointments for this age group until then.
“This is to ensure that those who are most at risk are vaccinated first. If you are 50 to 64 and you are also in one of the other groups which is eligible for the flu vaccination, for example you have a health condition which puts you at risk from flu, you will be invited earlier and should not delay getting the jab.
“I know some people choose not to have the jab because they have been ill afterwards or know someone who has been poorly afterwards but any side effects for the flu jab are rare. Some patients may experience a mild temperature or aching muscles for a couple of days, whereas flu can be extremely serious – especially for the most vulnerable people we look after. If you are worried about this, please speak to your GP or practice nurse.”
The flu vaccination offers an important health protection. Flu can lead to existing health conditions getting worse or the development of an illness such as bronchitis or pneumonia, or it could even be fatal. A vaccination helps protect the health of a pregnant mother and her child.
Good hand hygiene is vital
Once flu is circulating, apart from vaccination, good hand hygiene is the main way to prevent it spreading.
Dr Nil Sanganee GP in Leicestershire said: “Preventing the spread of germs is the most effective way to slow the spread of flu. And it’s easy to follow a few simple steps to help protect yourself and your loved ones this winter.
“Good hand hygiene is important not only in preventing colds and flu but it also helps to limit your exposure for other infections such as norovirus, which is also prevalent in winter.
“To clamp down on germs, we urge everyone to ‘Catch it. Bin it. Kill it’: use a tissue to catch coughs or sneezes, and then throw away the tissue. Finally, kill the germs by washing hands properly with soap and water. You should wash your hands for at least 20 seconds, about the time it takes to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice, and make sure to use soap.
“These simple measures can make a big difference and will help protect you, your family and those around you.”
The eleven steps that the NHS recommends for hand washing are:
- Wet your hands with water (warm or cold)
- Apply enough soap to cover all over your hands. You can use alcohol-based hand rub if you don't have immediate access to soap and water.
- Rub hands palm to palm.
- Rub the back of your left hand with your right palm with interlaced fingers. Repeat with the other hand.
- Rub your palms together with fingers interlaced.
- Rub the backs of your fingers against your palms with fingers interlocked.
- Clasp your left thumb with your right hand and rub in rotation. Repeat with your left hand and right thumb.
- Rub the tips of your fingers in the other palm in a circular motion, going backwards and forwards. Repeat with the other hand.
- Rinse hands with water (warm or cold).
- Dry thoroughly, ideally with a disposable towel.
- Use the disposable towel to turn off the tap.
You can find out more by visiting the NHS website.
Common symptoms of flu include a high temperature, fatigue, headache, general aches and pains and a dry, chesty cough. If you are generally fit and healthy you can usually manage the symptoms at home yourself without seeing a doctor. The best remedy is to rest at home, keep warm and drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration. Paracetamol or ibuprofen may help lower a high temperature and relieve aches. A pharmacist will be able to provide advice on medication.
People suffering with a cold or flu should avoid going into hospital, GP practice or other health setting to reduce the chance of vulnerable people catching the virus. The flu virus can be very dangerous for the elderly and the infirm particularly if they are already sick. This is a message that applies to people coming into hospital seeking treatment and to people coming to visit relatives.
Help to stop spreading colds and flu.
Colds and flu are caused by viruses and easily spread to other people. Germs from coughs and sneezes survive on hands and surfaces for up to 24 hours. You are infectious until all symptoms are gone which usually takes a week or two.
You can help prevent colds and flu spreading by using tissues to ‘catch it, kill it, bin it’. Washing your hands regularly with soap and water destroys bugs that you may have picked up from touching surfaces used by other people, such as light switches and door handles.
It is also important to keep household items clean, including cleaning such items as cups, glasses and towels, especially if someone in your house is ill.
People with worsening symptoms or respiratory problems are advised not to visit a GP surgery or a hospital but to call their GP first or call NHS111 for further advice.
In 2020/21, flu vaccinations will be offered under the NHS flu vaccination programme to the following groups:
- chronic (long-term) respiratory disease, such as severe asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or bronchitis
- chronic heart disease, such as heart failure
- chronic kidney disease at stage three, four or five
- chronic liver disease
- chronic neurological disease, such as Parkinson’s disease or motor neurone disease,
- learning disability
- splenic dysfunction or asplenia
- a weakened immune system due to disease (such as HIV/AIDS) or treatment (such as cancer treatment)
- morbidly obese (defined as BMI of 40 and above)
- all children aged two to eleven (but not twelve years or older) on 31 August 2020
- people aged 65 years or over (including those becoming age 65 years by 31 March 2021)
- those aged from six months to less than 65 years of age, in a clinical risk group such as those with:
- all pregnant women (including those women who become pregnant during the flu season)
- 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
- people living in long-stay residential care homes or other long-stay care facilities where rapid spread is likely to follow introduction of infection and cause high morbidity and mortality. This does not include, for instance, prisons, young offender institutions, university halls of residence, or boarding schools (except where children are of primary school age or secondary school Year 7).
- those who are in receipt of a carer’s allowance, or who are the main carer of an older or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if the carer falls ill
- health and social care staff, employed by a registered residential care/nursing home or registered domiciliary care provider, who are directly involved in the care of vulnerable patients/clients who are at increased risk from exposure to influenza.
- health and care staff, employed by a voluntary managed hospice provider, who are directly involved in the care of vulnerable patients/clients who are at increased risk from exposure to influenza.
- health and social care workers employed through Direct Payments (personal budgets) and/or Personal Health Budgets, such as Personal Assistants, to deliver domiciliary care to patients and service users. 2. Additionally, in 2020/21, flu vaccinations might be offered under the NHS flu vaccination programme to the following groups:
- individuals between 50-64 years, following prioritisation of other eligible groups and subject to vaccine supply