Time to get your flu jab

People who are the most vulnerable to flu – including the over 65s, pregnant women and people with long-term health conditions such as asthma, COPD and cardiovascular conditions – are being urged to get their free flu jab before winter sets in.

According to Public Health England (PHE), it’s a good idea for people who have a higher-than-normal risk of complications of flu to get vaccinated around mid-October, rather than wait until the winter weather starts – which is when the virus is most common. The advice is part of an initiative from PHE and NHS England called Stay Well This Winter, which aims to help at-risk people prepare for winter and avoid having to visit hospital for a common winter illness.

If you’re aged 65 or older… Flu can lead to serious complications such as bronchitis and pneumonia as you get older.

If you’re pregnant… According to the NHS, having a flu vaccine when you’re pregnant can help reduce the risk of serious complications such as pneumonia, help protect your baby against the virus, and reduce your risk of miscarriage or your baby being born too soon.

If you have a long-term health condition… Flu on top of any long-term health condition can easily develop into something more serious, the NHS claims, and you could end up in hospital.

If your child is two or three years old… The children’s flu vaccine is offered as an annual nasal spray to young children to protect them against flu.

Carers are also eligible for the NHS flu jab, as it is considered the best way to protect them and the person they care for from flu.

More children protected

PHE claims it’s offering flu vaccinations to more people than ever this year. Around 21 million in England people will be eligible for a flu vaccine in 2017, and this year children in school year 4 are too (children in school years 1, 2 and 3 are already eligible). Meanwhile, children older than four years of age in reception year can get the vaccine in school.

“This year we are offering the nasal spray vaccine to more children than ever,” says Professor Paul Cosford, PHE’s medical director. “Ensuring children get vaccinated is extremely important not only to protect them from flu but also to stop them spreading it to vulnerable groups they come into contact with.

“For someone with a long-term health condition like asthma or COPD, flu has the potential to turn very serious. We want as many eligible people as possible to get their jab, as it is the best way to protect everyone from flu and minimise the burden on the NHS during the season when it faces the most pressures.”

According to PHE, last year’s flu vaccination programme reduced the risk of flu in children who received the vaccine by 66 percent, compared to those who didn’t.

“Young children’s bodies can find it hard to cope with flu, so it is especially important to protect them with the vaccine,” says Dr Rosemary Leonard, GP and broadcaster.

“Once ill, children also tend to spread infection more than adults,” she adds. “The vaccine helps to reduce the spread of flu to other more vulnerable family members, such as grandparents.”

Ask your GP, midwife or Careway pharmacist about the free flu jab. If you’re not eligible for the free NHS vaccine, many Careway pharmacies also offer private flu jabs that offer the same protection.

Find your nearest Careway pharmacy by using our Pharmacy Finder.