Don’t put off the flu vaccination

If you or someone you care for is eligible for a free flu vaccination, don’t wait for winter to arrive before making an appointment, Bath and North East Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group (BaNES CCG) has said.

GPs and pharmacists can provide the vaccination, which is the safest way to help protect against flu. Those eligible for free vaccinations include people aged 65 years and older, people with long term conditions such as diabetes or asthma, pregnant women and children aged 2¬–4 years and those in primary school years 1-3.

However, less than half of people eligible– except those in the 65 years and older age group – took up the offer of a flu vaccination last year.
Dr Ruth Grabham, the CCG’s Medical Director and a GP at Newbridge Surgery in Bath, emphasised that if you’re eligible for a free vaccine, it’s because you need it.

“Flu can lead to some really serious complications in people whose immune systems may be vulnerable.

“There are myths every year that circulate about the flu vaccine, but as a GP I can honestly say that it’s the best protection you can get against catching the flu. It is clinically safe, effective and developed based on the latest available research,” she said.

For most healthy people, having the flu usually means spending a few days in bed with fever, chills, headaches and aches and pains in the joints. However, people who are more susceptible to the effects of flu can end up with infections like bronchitis and pneumonia, which can put them in hospital.

This year, parents of children aged 2–4 years and in years 1–3 at primary school are especially encouraged to take up the offer of a free flu vaccination for their child, even if they had it last year. It is given via a pain-free nasal spray, which avoids the need for children to have an injection.

Watch local Bath patient, Marlow, having his nasal flu vaccination at Oldfield Surgery:

In B&NES, children aged two to four years old can visit their GP for the nasal spray vaccination and parents are encouraged to contact their GP practice to book an appointment. For children in school years 1–3, school nurses are running vaccination clinics in primary schools.

Parents of children who live in B&NES but attend a school in Gloucestershire should call children’s community services on 01225 831666* to make arrangements for getting the flu vaccine.

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This year, the nasal flu vaccine is being offered by the NHS to:
‐ children aged two, three and four years i.e. born between 1 September 2011 and 31 August 2014
‐ children in school years 1, 2 and 3 i.e. born between 1 September 2008 and 31 August 2011
‐ children with a health condition that puts them at greater risk from flu.

The NHS also recommends the following people have a free flu vaccine:
‐ Anyone aged 65 years and older
‐ Anyone with a long term health condition including diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease, respiratory disease and heart disease. Check with a GP for eligibility.
‐ Pregnant women
‐ Healthcare workers

*This phone line is run by Sirona Health and Care, which provides children’s community services in Bath and North East Somerset.