Eligible for the flu jab? There's still time to get vaccinated

Friday, 6 January, 2017

People are being urged to take steps to stay well this winter by getting their flu vaccination jab.

The latest vaccination uptake figures released by Public Health England for the period from 1 September until the end of November 2016 show encouraging increases compared with the same period last year as more and more people recognise the importance of protecting themselves against flu.

However, NHS England South said that across the region many people in vulnerable at-risk groups are still not being vaccinated, leaving themselves at risk from the potentially fatal risk that flu poses.

Priority at-risk groups eligible for the free vaccine include those aged over 65, those under 65 but who have a long-term condition, pregnant women and children aged from two to five years old.

Here in the South West area:

  • The best vaccination uptake is among those aged over 65 with two-thirds of those eligible receiving the jab, marginally down on last year. That means more than 229,000 older people across the South West have not been vaccinated.
  • There was an increase of 2.4% in vaccination by those aged below 65 but who have a long-term condition, such as heart or liver disease which puts them at particular risk from flu. But that still means nearly 200,000 people have not protected themselves.
  • Nearly 42% of pregnant women have received their free vaccination, up slightly on last year. But more than 16,000 women have not been vaccinated, putting themselves and their children at serious risk. The vaccine protects the mother while pregnant from developing serious complications associated with flu, but also provides protection for the baby in its early months when born.
  • Over 37% of children aged between two and five years old have been vaccinated, an increase of over 3% from last year. But this means parents of 66,000 children have still not taken steps to protect their child and those around them from the threat of flu.  Young children are both vulnerable to the effects of flu but can also spread the virus to others.

Nigel Acheson, Regional Medical Director, NHS England South, said: “The uptake of the jab so far is encouraging with some improvements on last year, but there are many who would benefit who are still not protecting themselves by being vaccinated.

“It is not too late to get the vaccine and it remains the best way for those who are at the highest risk to protect themselves from the severe effects of the flu virus.

“Those in these key at-risk groups are eligible for a free vaccination. This includes older people and pregnant women, as well as those people with health conditions, even those that are well managed. Conditions include asthma, diabetes, heart, lung, liver and renal dieses, those with weakened immune systems. Young children from two, up to five-years-old, should also be protected.

“Anyone in these groups who hasn’t yet had the vaccine can receive it for free through their GP or midwife, but also your local high street pharmacist, so it is quick and easy to arrange.”

 

Vaccination against the flu virus is just one strand of the wider NHS Stay Well this Winter campaign advising the public on how to avoid common illness during winter. The simple steps are to:

  • Make sure you get the flu jab
  • Keep yourself warm - heat your home to least 18 degrees C (or 65F) if you can
  • Get help from your pharmacist quickly, if you start to feel unwell, even if it’s just a cough or a cold, before it gets more serious
  • Keep stocked up on your prescription medicines
  • Always take your prescribed medicines as directed
  • Use NHS Choices, call 111 or visit your local pharmacist for advice in a non-emergency
  • Check up on those more vulnerable – family, friends and neighbours