PEOPLE over the age of 65 in Staffordshire are being encouraged to take up the offer of a free flu vaccination before Christmas.
Socks, bath salts or a ‘hilarious’ festive jumper maybe some of the last things on your presents wish list this year – but receiving any of these is nowhere near as bad as being given influenza for Christmas.
The free vaccination is offered to those who are at increased risk from the effects of the flu. These include people aged 65 and over, pregnant women, those with underlying health conditions and children aged 2-9.
Flu vaccine uptake levels are lower than at this time last year, so Public Health England (PHE) is urging people in the West Midlands to Help Us Help You by making sure all eligible people have had their flu vaccine before visiting loved ones, to prevent spreading flu to family and friends.
For older people, it is estimated that getting the vaccine could reduce GP consultations by 30,000, hospitalisations by over 2,000 and prevent over 700 hospital deaths from flu in England.
Dr Ash Banerjee, screening and immunisation lead at Public Health England (PHE) West Midlands, said: “Flu is a very unpleasant illness that will completely ruin the festive season for anyone unfortunate enough to get it. For most healthy people, recovering from flu can take roughly a week. However, in the very young, elderly and those with long-term medical conditions, it can be extremely serious and lead to hospitalisation and even death.
“The vaccine is the best defence we have against the spread of flu and it isn’t too late for people to go to their GP or pharmacist and get vaccinated – especially those in risk groups including those aged 65 and over, pregnant women, people with long-term medical conditions, and 2 and 3-year-old children. Young children are known as ‘super-spreaders’ and if left unimmunised, could spread flu to everyone at a family get together.”
Dr Banerjee added: “The best advice is to rest, keep warm and drink plenty of water. We also recommend people take paracetamol or ibuprofen to lower a high temperature and relieve aches if necessary. People suffering with flu-like symptoms should catch coughs or sneezes in tissues and bin them immediately, wash their hands regularly with soap and warm water, and frequently clean regularly used surfaces to stop the spread of flu. It is also important to avoid unnecessary contact with people if you have flu. Anyone who thinks they might have flu and is concerned about their symptoms should call NHS111, who will be able to give advice on whether you need to seek further medical help. If someone is very unwell and you need to call 999 for an ambulance, people should ensure they say that the person has flu-like symptoms.”
Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Health, Care and Wellbeing Alan White said: “The flu vaccine is free for certain people because they are at an increased risk from the effects of the virus. This includes people aged 65 or over. Getting the flu at any age is not a pleasant experience, but it can be a lot more serious for older people who may suffer more if they contract the virus.
“This year a more effective vaccine is being given to those aged 65 and over, which is proven to give better protection against flu for people of this age. We want as many people who are eligible for a free vaccine to take up the offer. It’s not too late to book an appointment and ensure you are better protected, especially before Christmas when flu typically starts to circulate.”
For more information on the free vaccine, speak to your local school or GP, or visit www.nhs.uk/fluvaccine for more information.