The Public Health team at Essex County Council is today urging those at highest risk of flu to get vaccinated ahead of the winter period, when the virus is most common.
From today, the national flu vaccination programme is available nationwide to all eligible people. New this year, children in school year 4 will also be offered the vaccine in a school setting for the first time, along with children in reception and years 1, 2 and 3.
The national drive marks the start of Stay Well This Winter, an initiative from Public Health England and NHS England to help the most vulnerable people prepare for winter and avoid having to visit hospital due to common winter illnesses.
Cllr John Spence, Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Social Care said: “It’s crucial for people in the priority groups to get their flu vaccination as soon as possible, to not only protect themselves, but those around them too. It’s free for priority groups because they need it.”
Mike Gogarty, Director of Wellbeing, Public Health & Communities at Essex County Council said: “ We know flu and complications associated with it cause around 8000 deaths on average a year in England so if you are at risk, I can’t stress enough how important the flu vaccination is.”
“Many people don’t realise they are in a priority group, so please think about whether you qualify and if you are eligible for the free vaccination and have not had it, then contact your GP, pharmacist or midwife to arrange your vaccination.”
Those in priority groups and eligible for the free flu vaccine include:
- Adults over 65
- Pregnant women
- Children aged 2 and 3 as well as pupils in reception class and school years 1 to 4
- People with long-term health conditions (including asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and cardiovascular issues)
Another way of protecting vulnerable adults is to vaccinate children, who are ‘super-spreaders’ of the vaccine.
For healthy children aged 2 and 3 the flu vaccine is in the form of a nasal spray, administered by a health professional. Nationally, parents of over three million children in reception class and school years 1, 2, 3 and 4 will be asked to agree to have their children vaccinated in school.
According to Public Health England, last year’s flu vaccination programme reduced the risk of flu in children who received the vaccine by 63% compared to those that didn’t.
The vaccine is the best form of protection against flu. Vaccinating those who are most likely to get flu also offers a protective effect for the rest of the population by reducing the overall spread of the virus.
To book your flu vaccination, please contact your GP.