Essex residents urged to take up the offer of the free flu vaccine

Public Health England and the NHS’s joint Stay Well This Winter campaign has launched in Essex with the national flu vaccination programme now available nationwide to all eligible people, including 198,000 children in the county.

The Stay Well This Winter campaign will help the most vulnerable people in Essex prepare for winter and avoid having to visit hospital due to common winter illnesses.

Oliver Jackson, PHE Screening and Immunisations Manager for Essex, said: “For many people flu is an unpleasant illness but for the most vulnerable in society – small children, the elderly, those with long-term health problems and for pregnant women – it can be extremely dangerous.

“Getting the vaccine is simply the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from catching flu and I would urge anyone who is offered the vaccine to take up the offer and get protected against for the coming winter season.”

People who are the most vulnerable to flu are being urged to get their free flu vaccination, ahead of the winter period when the virus is most common. The Chief Medical Officer for England has warned that flu, and complications associated with it, cause 8000 deaths on average a year in England.

This year’s campaign aims to continue to increase uptake of the flu vaccination. Last year in Essex, 62.8% of children aged 5-11 years were vaccinated against flu. In addition, the vaccine was also administered to 44.1% of people in at-risk groups and 67.8% of people aged 65 or older. Uptake by pregnant women nationally was 44.9%.

The flu vaccination is offered to those who are at increased risk from the effects of flu. These include:

  • Children aged 2-8 (in Basildon and Brentwood children in years 5 and 6 are also being offered protection as one of the former primary school pilot areas)
  • People aged 65 and over
  • Pregnant women
  • People with long term health conditions

In Essex and East Anglia a new social media advertising pilot campaign is taking place targeting these at risk groups with the sole aim of increasing uptake, by highlighting eligibility, re-enforcing why it is important and signposting places where they can receive the vaccine.

People with respiratory diseases like COPD, emphysema or asthma are seven times more likely to die if they catch flu, and people with cardiovascular problems like chronic heart disease or angina, or have had a stroke, are 11 times more likely compared to those who don’t. The risk is far worse for those with chronic liver disease, who are 48 times more likely to die if they get flu.

Another way of protecting vulnerable adults is to vaccinate children, who are ‘super-spreaders’ of the virus. Last year’s flu vaccination programme reduced the risk of flu in children who received the vaccine by 65%. For healthy children aged 2-11 in Essex the flu vaccine is given in the form of a nasal spray, administered by a health professional.

Professor Dame Sally Davies, the Chief Medical Officer for England,  said: “Flu kills and we could save thousands of lives if everyone eligible got their free jab.

“With more people eligible than ever before and the vaccine available in more locations, people should protect themselves and those around them against this potentially deadly virus. Taking a few minutes to get the jab could save your life this winter.”

To get your vaccine or find out if you are eligible, contact your GP, pharmacist or midwife for more information. Visit nhs.uk/staywell for more details on how to help you and your family to stay well this winter.

Date: 12 October 2017

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