The PHA is urging all those in ‘at risk’ groups, including pregnant women at all stages of pregnancy, to get their flu vaccine early.
For those people in ‘at risk’ groups, flu can cause serious illness and result in a stay in hospital, or even death. Even if you currently feel fit and healthy, you may be at increased risk of flu and should receive the free vaccine. It is also important to note that the flu virus can differ every flu season, which is why you need to get the jab every year.
GPs will now be inviting patients in ‘at risk’ categories, including people with severe egg allergies, to get the seasonal flu vaccine and protect themselves and their loved ones.
Dr Lorraine Doherty, Assistant Director of Public Health (Health Protection), PHA, explains the importance of the flu vaccine for ‘at risk’ groups: “Everyone who receives an invitation to be vaccinated against flu should see it as a positive step in protecting their health and the health of others around them.
“The flu vaccine does not give you the flu. It is there for the sole reason to protect ‘at risk’ groups because if they get flu, they are more likely to have severe illness and/or develop complications such as pneumonia, which can be life-threatening.
“Pregnant women are more likely to have serious illness if they catch flu, which is why they will be invited by their GP at all stages of pregnancy, to protect them and their unborn baby. Health and Social Care staff are also urged to get vaccinated, to protect themselves, their families and those they care for.”
In highlighting the importance of getting the seasonal flu vaccine, Health Minister Edwin Poots said: “I cannot overstate enough how important it is for people in ‘at risk’ groups to get vaccinated from the flu as soon as possible to avoid any complications from getting the virus.
Northern Ireland traditionally achieves a high uptake rate for the ‘at risk’ groups thanks to the hard work and dedication from all the staff involved in the vaccination programme across the Health and Social Care Trusts and also GPs and their staff. I would again urge everyone involved in the vaccination programme to try and build on this uptake rate to ensure as many of our most vulnerable citizens are protected against seasonal flu.”
As it takes approximately 10 days following vaccination to develop protection against flu, clinics will be held from early October onwards, so that most people will have had the opportunity to receive the flu vaccine before the peak of the flu season in December. If you wait until flu arrives here, it may be too late for the vaccine to protect you.
The flu vaccination programme is supported by a mass multi-media campaign that includes TV, radio, press and online advertising, and emphasises the seriousness of flu and the illnesses it can cause. Leaflets and posters with the most up-to-date information on seasonal flu vaccination are also available through GPs, midwives and the dedicated flu website: www.fluawareni.info
For further information, visit: www.fluawareni.info
Notes to the editor
For more information about the flu vaccine for 2011/12, visit www.fluawareni.info or speak to your GP/nurse or member of staff at the antenatal clinic in your local Health and Social Care Trust.
‘At risk’ groups for flu include:
- · Anyone aged 65 or over, even if they feel fit and healthy at the moment
- · Pregnant women (at any stage of pregnancy)
- · Children and adults who have any of the following medical conditions:
– a chronic chest condition such as asthma;
– a chronic heart condition;
– chronic kidney disease;
– lowered immunity due to disease or treatment such as steroids or cancer therapy;
– a chronic neurological condition such as stroke, multiple sclerosis or a condition that affects your nervous system, such as cerebral palsy;
– any other serious medical condition – check with your doctor if you are unsure.
- · Children who have previously been admitted to hospital with a chest infection.
- · Children attending schools for those with severe learning difficulties.
- · Anyone living in a residential or nursing home.
- · Main carers for elderly or disabled people
The seasonal vaccination programme 2011/12 is supported by a multi-media campaign that will run from 3 October to 4 December 2011 and will include TV, radio, online and press advertising.