If you’re eligible for a free flu jab on the NHS and you haven’t had it yet, it’s not too late to get yourself protected.
That’s the message from Public Health England as the winter flu season approaches, putting many people at risk from this potentially very serious illness.
People eligible for a free annual flu vaccine include all adults over 65, children from age two to secondary school age, people of any age with certain underlying medical conditions, pregnant women and all frontline health or social care workers. Those not eligible for a free vaccination can still get one from many high street pharmacies for a small fee, usually between £10 and £15.
The type of vaccine people receive depends on their age group, as some vaccines work better than others for particular groups. This year there has been a temporary pause in the primary schools’ vaccination programmes caused by delays from the manufacturer of the nasal vaccine, but it is now under way again.
Parents of two and three-year-old pre-school children and those in primary school are urged to make sure they are protected by having the nasal spray vaccine. This is particularly important as children are recognised as “super spreaders” of the highly contagious illness who are likely to pass it on to older and more vulnerable family members. Having children vaccinated not only protects them, but also means outbreaks of flu are likely to be more confined.
Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation at Public Health England (PHE), said: “The flu vaccine is the best defence we have against what can be a serious and fatal illness, and flu season is just around the corner. If you are in an eligible group, visit your GP or pharmacist as soon possible to ensure you are protected.”
Professor Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, added: “Influenza can be a very unpleasant illness, and while it is not generally a serious illness for most people, for those in at-risk groups, such as young children, elderly people, those with long-term conditions and pregnant women, flu has the potential to trigger life-threatening complications.
“The best defence against the flu is to be vaccinated and we strongly urge all patients in at-risk groups to get vaccinated and for parents to ensure their young children receive their vaccine as soon as possible.”
Adults aged 65 and over are more vulnerable and may suffer more than most people if they catch flu. Serious complications of flu include pneumonia, septic shock (a severe and life-threatening infection of the whole body), meningitis and encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), but vaccination against flu reduces these risks.
For more information about all aspects of the flu vaccine, click here, and remember:
- A bout of flu is much worse than a heavy cold, can lead to serious complications and might even be fatal, especially to those in vulnerable groups
- Flu cannot be treated by antibiotics – they work against bacteria, while flu is caused by viruses
- You need to have the flu vaccine every year as the viruses which cause flu change each year and the vaccine is matched to combat them
- Even if you think you’ve had flu, you should still have the vaccine as it will protect you from other strains
- The flu vaccine cannot give you flu – some people might get a slight temperature and aching muscles for a couple of days, but that’s far less serious than flu
- Taking daily vitamin C supplements cannot prevent flu – this is a myth with no evidence to prove it
- Having a flu jab doesn’t guarantee you won’t get flu, but it’s the best protection available and even if you do still get it, it’s likely to be less severe and prolonged if you’ve had the vaccine.