As soon as the autumn nights start to draw in and the weather turns colder by the day, GP practices and pharmacies start gearing up for winter.
For people in ‘at risk’ groups, autumn is the time to book in for their free flu jab.
- anyone aged 65 and over
- pregnant women
- children and adults with an underlying health condition (such as long-term heart or respiratory disease)
- children and adults with weakened immune systems
- anyone living in a residential or nursing home
- anyone who is the main carer of an older or disabled person
- those in frontline health or social care work settings
Every year, hundreds of thousands of people up and down the country see their GP and tens of thousands are hospitalised because of flu. Symptoms of flu can be debilitating and last for several weeks. It can lead to more serious complications like middle ear infections in children, and pneumonia or bronchitis for those with underlying health conditions, and in some cases it can be fatal.
Local GP and chair of Basildon and Brenwood CCG Dr Boye Tayo said: “Flu is a highly contagious illness that spreads rapidly through the population. It can cause serious complications for at risk groups, such as the people who are frail and elderly, expectant mothers and people with long term health conditions such as diabetes, heart problems, cancer patients and asthma.
“This year more children are being vaccinated because we know that they can very easily pick up germs and spread them among friends and family members. This vaccination programme helps protect people and their communities.
“Thousands more local residents are entitled to a free flu jab and if you are unsure, please contact your GP practice. My advice for anyone eligible for the free flu vaccination is to get it early before flu starts to circulate in their community.”
Although it’s not possible to know which strains of flu will circulate each winter, the flu vaccination is still the best protection against an unpredictable virus which can cause severe illness and deaths amongst vulnerable groups.
Over the many years that the flu jab has been administered, there has generally been a good match between the strains of flu in the vaccine and those that subsequently circulate, so it’s important that we do all we can to ensure vulnerable people are not discouraged from having flu vaccination now, or in the future.
Vaccines are available now so contact your local GP or pharmacy as soon as possible – it’s free because you need it.