14 October 2015

As winter approaches, doctors in Northamptonshire are urging people at risk of flu and pneumonia to get vaccinated this winter.

Ahead of the national winter campaign which is soon to be launched by NHS England and Public Health England, NHS Nene Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and Northamptonshire County Council are encouraging people who are eligible to take up the free flu vaccine this winter.

Who is eligible for a free flu vaccination?

People with serious health conditions, adults aged 65 or over, pregnant women, some carers and healthy children aged between 2 and 4, plus children in primary school years one and two, all qualify for the free vaccination from the NHS.

Flu is a highly contagious infection with symptoms that come on very quickly. In most cases, the symptoms are mild, but in others they can be very serious. Those at greater risk from flu include people aged 65 or over, pregnant women and those with health conditions such as severe asthma, chest or heart complaints and diabetes. Flu can make the effects of existing conditions much worse and make complications like pneumonia more likely.

People who are carers are also encouraged to get a free jab to protect themselves and those around them. They can then continue to help those they look after.

This year the flu vaccination will continue to be offered to children aged 2, 3 or 4 years. This is to protect them against the disease and help reduce its spread to other children, including their older brothers and sisters, and, of course, their parents and grandparents. For most children the vaccine will be given as a spray in each nostril. This is very quick, effective and a painless procedure and parents will be invited into their surgery for these vaccinations by their GP practice.

When to get a vaccination

The best time to be vaccinated is at the start of the flu season from October to early November, so it’s good to get in early and get flu safe in time for the winter. Most GP practices will be running additional clinics to accommodate patients needing the vaccination.

Simply contact your GP practice to arrange a convenient appointment and get your jab or drop in to your local pharmacy. It’s quick, safe and free for those most at risk from the virus.

For more information, speak to your GP or local pharmacist, or visit www.nhs.uk/flu

Darin Seiger, GP Chair of NHS Nene Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Flu is not like a cold – it can be a really serious illness for some people and it doesn’t just affect older people. If you’re pregnant, have lowered immunity or a long-term health condition such as severe asthma, a chest or heart complaint, or diabetes, then you should also get a free flu jab from your GP or community pharmacist. The flu jab is completely safe, and it won’t give you any flu symptoms.

“Flu can increase the risk of developing more serious illnesses such as bronchitis and pneumonia, and can make existing conditions much worse. It can knock you off your feet and make it hard to look after your family or go to work. In the most serious cases, seasonal flu might land you in hospital - it can even be a killer, which is why it is so important to make people aware to get the free flu jab.

“Many patients tell me that they are worried that they may get flu and feel unwell if they have a flu jab. Let me reassure everyone that the vaccination doesn’t contain the ‘live’ virus so it cannot give you the flu. And remember, the flu vaccine changes every year to fight the latest strains of flu, so even if you had a jab last winter you need another one this year.”

Councillor Robin Brown, cabinet member for Public Health and Wellbeing, said: “It’s important that you think about getting a flu vaccination. If you’re in any of the ’at risk’ groups the flu jab is completely free and is a safe way of protecting you and your family in a matter of minutes. If you're a parent of a 2, 3, or 4 year-old don't forget they can get also get vaccinated with a simple nasal spray."