Call from city heath chiefs.
Birmingham health bosses today reminded people eligible for a free NHS flu jab that it’s not too late to vaccinate. Typically the levels of flu-like illness increase at this time of year, meaning that those at risk of getting serious complications from flu may be more vulnerable if they haven’t yet had the flu jab.
Each winter the free flu jab is offered to people in ‘at risk’ groups. These include everyone aged 65 and over, children and adults under 65 with certain medical conditions and all pregnant women. This year, for the first time, a free nasal spray vaccine is being offered to parents of healthy two and three-year-olds, so that their children can be protected against the virus.
But, whilst the majority of older people in Birmingham, Solihull and the Black Country have now received their flu vaccine, there are still some under 65s with long-term conditions, such as heart or breathing problems, and pregnant women, who have yet to have theirs.
The vaccine takes around 10-14 days to start working, so the sooner people have it, the quicker they’ll be protected. Director of Public Health, Dr Adrian Phillips, said: “The simple message for anyone at risk in Birmingham is that it’s not too late to have the flu jab this winter.
“Flu can increase the risk of developing more serious illnesses such as bronchitis and pneumonia, and can make existing conditions much worse. Flu can knock you off your feet and make it hard to look after the kids or go to work. In the most serious cases, seasonal flu might land you in hospital – it can even be a killer. If you’re in any of the ’at risk’ groups, the flu jab is completely free and is a safe way of protecting you and your family in a matter of minutes.”
Nicola Benge, Public Health Consultant for NHS England in Birmingham, Solihull and the Black Country, added: “Flu is much more serious than getting a cold, and the effects of seasonal flu are often underestimated. Some people are more at risk from flu and need the vaccine because they are not able to fight off the virus as easily as others. For these people, flu can often result in more serious complications which require hospital treatment. It can even be fatal in some cases.
“Flu can be prevented by having the vaccine, which is provided free at GP surgeries across Birmingham, Solihull and the Black Country for those people most at risk.”
Flu vaccinations are currently offered free of charge to the following ‘at risk’ groups:
- people aged 65 years or over (including those becoming age 65 years by 31 March 2013).
- all pregnant women (including those women who become pregnant during the flu season).
- children aged 2-3, who are eligible for a free nasal flu vaccination
- people with a serious medical condition such as severe asthma, diabetes or chronic heart, lun g or kidney disease.
- people living in long stay residential care homes or other long-stay care facilities where rapid spread is likely to follow introduction of infection and cause high morbidity and mortality. This does not include, for instance, prisons, young offender institutions, or university halls of residence
- people who are in receipt of a carer’s allowance, or those who are the main carer of an older or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if the carer falls ill
If you think you or your child may be eligible for the free flu jab, call your GP surgery now to check and to book an appointment. For more information, speak to your GP or local pharmacist, or visit www.nhs.uk/flu