As the flu season approaches, Solihull has launched its annual campaign to encourage people to get the flu jab before December.
A free NHS flu vaccine is available to eligible people. It will help protect them from the risk of flu and its complications and has been expanded to protect more people and support the NHS, as COVID-19 is likely to be circulating during the flu season.
Flu can be a serious illness and is very different to the common cold. It is life threatening for people who are in an at-risk group and each year up to 17,000 people die as a result of contracting flu.
The campaign will target people who are most vulnerable to the effects of flu:
- People 65 years old or over
- Those aged between six months to 65 years with certain medical conditions (such as heart problems, asthma, bronchitis, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, liver or kidney disease, learning disability)
- Pregnant women, no matter how many weeks
- People living in a long-stay residential care home or another long-stay care facility
- People in receipt of a carer’s allowance, or the main carer of an older or disabled person
- Members of a shielding household
- Frontline health and social care workers in hospices and registered residential care, nursing homes and homecare organisations and those that provide care through Direct Payments or Personal Health Budgets or both
People in these groups are urged to speak to their GP or practice nurse, or alternatively their local pharmacy about having their free flu vaccination. For pregnant women, the vaccine may also be available through maternity services.
Later in the year, the free flu vaccine may also be made available for people aged to 50 to 64. People should contact their GP for more information.
Frontline health and social care workers that do not fall into the categories above should check with their employer if they are eligible for a flu vaccination.
As ‘super-spreaders’, children should also have the flu vaccination to protect them and by extension, other vulnerable members of the community. For children aged two and three the flu vaccine is just a quick nasal spray, which can be given at their GP practice.
All primary school children from reception to year six and children in year seven in secondary school will be offered the flu nasal spray whilst they’re at school. It is important that parents sign and return the consent form allowing them to have the flu vaccine at school.
Solihull Council’s Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Health, Councillor Karen Grinsell, said: “The reason we talk so much about getting a flu jab if you are in one of the at-risk groups is that we don’t want to see anyone become seriously ill, especially when it is avoidable. By having the flu jab it will help increase your chances of being protected from flu and can lessen the symptoms if you do catch it.
“Your GP will contact you if you’re eligible for the flu jab. But you do not have to wait to be contacted before booking a vaccine.
“I’ll be getting my flu jab and I encourage others to get theirs too.”
Solihull Council’s Director of Public Health, Ruth Tennant added: “This year, with COVID-19 in circulation, it’s really important that if you are in one of the flu target groups you have the flu jab.
“You can get your flu jab at a range of locations throughout local communities, so you may be asked to travel somewhere, other than your GP practice.
“There is no need to feel anxious about getting the flu jab. All necessary measures will be taken to make sure the flu vaccine is given in a safe environment and the process will be quick and easy.”
Dr Richard Mendelsohn, Chief Medical Officer at NHS Birmingham and Solihull Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Flu can be unpleasant for most people, but especially for older people and those with ongoing health problems, it can lead to severe illness, and even death. However, by getting the flu jab, you can help yourself and others.
"It is more important this year than ever to stay protected against flu, so I would urge everyone who is eligible to take up the offer when your GP gets in touch.
“The best time to get your flu jab is between the beginning of October and the end of November.”
More information and advice about the flu vaccine is available on the NHS website.