18 December 2019

Health and social care teams across Shropshire, and Telford & Wrekin, are reminding those eligible for a free flu vaccine to take up their flu jab.

Flu is a highly infectious disease and is different to the common cold. Symptoms include fever, chills, headaches, aching muscles and joint pain and fatigue.

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

Who’s eligible?

  • Those aged 65 years and over
    • People aged 65 and over are more likely to experience serious complications from flu. This season there are two vaccines available for those aged 65 and over. The first is the vaccine which was first available last season (the trivalent ‘adjuvanted’ vaccine). A second vaccine, made in cells rather than eggs, is being made available for the first time. Both vaccines are considered equally suitable for this age group and should offer better protection for older people against flu than standard egg-based vaccines.
  • Those aged six months to under 65 years in clinical risk groups
    • Flu is a highly infectious disease and can lead to serious complications if you have an underlying health condition such as COPD, bronchitis, emphysema, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, liver disease or a chronic neurological disease like multiple sclerosis or cerebral palsy. Flu on top of health conditions like these increases your chance of serious health complications and a hospital visit. This season there are two vaccines available for adults aged between 18 and 64 years. Both protect against four strains of flu, one is grown in eggs and the second is cell-based. Both vaccines are considered equally suitable for this age group.
  • Pregnant women
    • However fit and healthy you might feel, if you are pregnant you need the flu jab now. The flu jab is the safest way to help protect you and your baby against flu. It’s free because you need it. Pregnancy naturally weakens the body’s immune system and as a result flu can cause serious complications for you, for your pregnancy or for your baby. You may be less able to fight off infections, increasing the risk of becoming ill as a result of flu. You can get vaccinated at any stage during your pregnancy. So ask your GP, pharmacist or midwife about the free flu jab now.
  • Those living in a residential or nursing home
    • Care home residents can be extremely vulnerable to complications of flu. Flu vaccine for both residents, staff and visitors to residential and nursing homes, is the single best way to protect against catching or spreading flu.
  • The main carer of an older person, or person with disabilities
    • If you are the main carer of an older or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if you fall ill, you may be eligible for the free flu jab so speak to your GP to check.
  • Children aged 2-3 (on 31 August 2019) and all primary school aged children
    • Flu can be horrible for little children so it is important to protect them from becoming unwell. Children are also ‘super-spreaders’ of flu and vaccinating them can protect more vulnerable members of the community. Children who get flu have the same symptoms as adults – including fever, chills, aching muscles, headache, stuffy nose, dry cough and sore throat. Some children develop a very high fever or complications of flu, such as bronchitis or pneumonia and may need hospital treatment. For most children, the flu vaccine is not usually an injection, just a quick and easy nasal spray. Children aged 2 and 3 (on 31 August 2019) receive the vaccine through their GP and all primary school aged children receive it in school. If you have a child who is of the eligible age, make sure you sign the consent form allowing them to have the flu vaccine at school. Ask your GP about the free flu nasal spray and other childhood vaccinations now. 

Rob Gittins, Shropshire Council’s deputy Cabinet member for public health, said: “The flu vaccine is the best defence we have against what can be a serious and even fatal illness.

“It’s really important for those who are eligible for a free flu vaccination to take up this offer and it’s not too late to get vaccinated.

“No one wants to be ill over the festive period. If you are eligible for the flu vaccine, contact your GP, pharmacist or midwife now, so to protect yourself this winter – it’s free because you need it.”

Councillor Andy Burford, Telford & Wrekin Council’s Cabinet member for health and social care, said: “Flu not a minor illness by any stretch of the imagination. On average 8,000 people a year die because of flu.

“If you are eligible for a free flu vaccine please make sure you get vaccinated. You are protecting not just yourself but other vulnerable members of the community as well.”

Aside from having your flu vaccine, the best way to prevent the spread of flu is to practice good hand hygiene. Catch coughs and sneezes in a tissue, throw the tissue away and wash your hands. If you think you have flu, stay home and rest until you feel better.

Ask your local pharmacist

  • If you are 65 or over, or in one of the other at-risk groups, see a pharmacist as soon as you feel unwell, even if it’s just a cough or a cold.
  • Pharmacists can give you treatment advice for a range of minor illnesses. They will also tell you if you need to see a doctor.
  • The sooner you get advice, the sooner you are likely to get better. Find your local pharmacy here: https://www.nhs.uk/service-search/find-a-pharmacy/.
  • For pharmacy opening times over the Christmas and New Year period in Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin click here.

NHS 111

  • Call NHS 111 if you have an underlying health condition or feel really unwell.
  • If you need medical advice when a pharmacy is closed, call: 111or go to nhs.uk

For more information about the flu vaccination visit www.nhs.uk/fluvaccine.