Dr Colin Patterson.jpgThis year the free NHS flu vaccination is being offered to anyone over the age of 50, and other vulnerable groups, and GP practices will be contacting their patients to arrange appointments.

The flu jab is one of the key ways to boost your immunity over the coming winter months and will protect you against different flu virus strains. This is an addition to the protection offered by the Covid-19 vaccinations.

People might be hesitant this year as they are waiting for further Covid-19 vaccinations/boosters but it is absolutely vital that people don’t delay in getting their usual protection against the flu virus, which we encourage every year.

The public’s uptake of the flu jab was very encouraging last year so we hope to see a similar response again this year to ensure people are boosting their immunity as much as possible. Vaccinating against flu is really more important than ever so please look out for your invitation from your GP to a socially distanced flu clinic. Remember if you are eligible for the free flu vaccination you can also contact your local pharmacy to book an appointment and they should be able to advise on their availability accordingly.

Please be patient with this process, remember both practices and pharmacies continue to work extra hard under difficult circumstances to ensure your safety throughout the ongoing covid pandemic.

Flu can be debilitating for anyone, and for those in an ‘at risk’ category it can have a serious impact. As a result clinically vulnerable patients are always prioritised first with the flu vaccine because unfortunately some higher risks groups are more likely to develop potentially serious complications of flu, such as bronchitis and pneumonia. If you are in an ‘at risk’ – you may have a long term condition, be a carer or may have learning disabilities - please ensure you contact your GP or local pharmacist to arrange this as soon as possible ahead of the winter months. The jab is also strongly encouraged and available for anyone who is pregnant and it is safe to have the flu jab at any stage of pregnancy.

Prevention is always our preferred option in fighting the flu virus with different versions of the flu jab being used depending on your age. You will be offered the jab that's most effective for you with a standard vaccine for adults aged 18 to 64, a quadrivalent flu vaccine for adults aged 65 and over, which is designed to protect against four different flu viruses, and there is also a children's nasal spray flu vaccine option available, most children will be vaccinated through school so please return any consent forms you may be sent quickly.

Visit: http://nhs.uk/staywell for more information.

Further information is also available about the flu jab in easy read formats and other languages here: https://northcumbriaccg.nhs.uk/flu

If you need medical advice you can visit111.nhs.uk or contact NHS 111 for free 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

By Dr Colin Patterson
Lead GP at NHS North Cumbria Clinical Commissioning