It’s wonderful to see the Christmas lights and decorations going up as we get ready for what we all hope all will be a better Christmas this year - and as part of this I’d urge you all to factor in precautions to stop winter illnesses such as the flu spoiling your plans.
As you continue to get organised, now is the perfect time to get your flu vaccine.
You may have already seen the messages from the UK Health Security Agency this week, calling for all those eligible to take up their flu vaccine before the 10th of December. This is because the vaccine takes around 14 days before it provides maximum protection – so if you get it before December 10, there’s still time to ensure it gives maximum protection for the holidays.
Not only is flu is an incredibly nasty illness to catch, but it’s also highly infectious, and nobody wants to be suffering with it over Christmas. It can lead to serious complications for those living with a long-term health condition, including respiratory and heart conditions, diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease or a chronic neurological disease like multiple sclerosis or cerebral palsy.
Did you know that people with underlying health conditions overall are 11 times more likely to die if they catch flu compared to healthy adults?
This is why we’re calling on people to take up the flu vaccine, along with practicing good hygiene, ventilating rooms, and staying at home if unwell, to help keep themselves and vulnerable relatives safe throughout the festive season.
In England, the flu programme is bigger than ever this year, with more than 35 million people now eligible for the free flu vaccine. These include people aged 65 and over, those with underlying health conditions, and pregnant women. Children are also offered the flu vaccine to help protect them and reduce the spread of flu to more vulnerable people. This includes children aged 2 and 3 years on 31 August, and schoolchildren aged up to year 11.
Here in north Cumbria, over 80% of people aged 65 and over have already come forward for their flu vaccination - and 72% of all those with underlying health conditions have taken up the offer (according to figures made available on the 30th November 2021).
Eligible adults can book their free NHS flu vaccination at their GP practice or local pharmacy. Mums-to-be can also get the jab at their maternity service. Children are offered a quick and painless nasal flu spray. Parents can book an appointment at their child’s GP surgery for 2 and 3 year olds and most school children should have had the opportunity at school or at a catch up clinic.
Frontline health and social care workers should be offered the flu vaccine through their employer or, for some staff groups, they are eligible to receive it through their GP or pharmacy.
Thank you all – I hope that everybody has a safe and merry Christmas.
By Ed Tallis, Director of Primary Care, NHS North Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group