As we move closer to the height of winter, the Public Health Agency (PHA) is reminding people who are eligible for the flu vaccine but haven’t yet had it, to get it as soon as possible.
The PHA is particularly urging all those aged under 65 years who are in ‘at risk’ groups and pregnant women to get their flu vaccine as soon as possible. Flu can cause serious illness and result in a stay in hospital, or even death, for people in these ‘at risk’ categories. Even if you feel fit and healthy, if you fall into one of these groups it is important that you remember to get the vaccine.
Dr Richard Smithson, Consultant in Health Protection at the PHA, said: “There has been a very good start to the vaccination programme this year. However, with busy lives it is easy to forget about the flu vaccine, especially when you feel fit and well. But it is important to make the effort to remember to get the flu vaccine at your GP’s surgery.”
This year flu vaccine is also being offered to all two and three year olds for the first time. There has been a very positive response from parents so far. However, some two and three year olds still haven’t had the vaccine.
Dr Smithson urged parents to take advantage of the opportunity to get their child vaccinated: “I would encourage every parent to take up the chance of getting the vaccine for your child, if they fall into one of these two categories. It is easy and painless to give as we are now using a vaccine that is given as a spray up the nose. You should have heard from your GP’s surgery by now. If you haven’t then contact them to find out what their arrangements are for offering the vaccine.”
The flu virus spreads easily and quickly through the air when people cough and sneeze without covering their nose and mouth, infecting both adults and children alike. Flu can cause fever, chills, aching muscles and joints, headache and extreme tiredness. These symptoms can last between two and seven days and for some people can lead to serious illness and result in a stay in hospital.
Dr Smithson continued: “The flu vaccine does not give you the flu. It is there 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.
“We are very pleased with the start to the flu vaccine campaign, with many people having already taken the opportunity to get vaccinated. However for those who haven’t had it yet they should arrange to get it as soon as possible.
“We can never be sure when the flu virus will start to spread, some years it comes earlier than others, so it is important to get the vaccine as soon as possible. If you wait until flu arrives here, it may be too late for the vaccine to protect you.”
It is also important to remember that the flu virus can differ every flu season, which is why you need to get the vaccination every year, so even if you received the vaccine in spring this year, you still need to get the vaccination for the 2013/14 flu season.
For more information about the flu vaccine for 2013/14, visit www.fluawareni.info or speak to your GP/nurse or member of staff within the school nurse team at your local Health and Social Care Trust.
Public Health Agency
Linenhall Street Unit
12-22 Linenhall Street
Tel: +44 (28) 9032 1313