As winter approaches, East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s public health team is urging pregnant women and young children to take up the free flu vaccination.
Pregnant women and young children are among those at high risk and mothers are advised to protect themselves, and their unborn babies, from the disease.
Children in Reception and school years 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 are also offered flu vaccinations within a part of a school based programme as a nasal spray through City Health Care Partnership (CHCP) Immunisation Team commissioned by NHS England. The commissioned CHCP Immunisation Team has been in contact with schools to discuss the details of flu vaccination implementation.
The main reasons for using a nasal spray flu vaccine include:
- Higher efficacy in children
- The potential to provide coverage against circulating strains that have drifted from those contained in the vaccine
- Higher acceptability with children, their parents and carers due to intranasal administration
- It may offer important longer-term immunological advantages to children by replicating natural exposure/infection
- By interrupting transmission of flu, it will reduce the spread of flu to unvaccinated children and adults.
As well as pregnant women and children aged two to eight years, the free flu jabs are available for people aged 65 and over, people with a long-term health condition, serious medical condition, people in long-stay residential care homes, and carers.
A serious medical condition includes:
- chronic (long-term) respiratory disease, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or bronchitis
- chronic heart disease, such as heart failure
- chronic kidney disease at stage three, four or five
- chronic liver disease
- chronic neurological disease, such as Parkinson's disease or motor neurone disease, or learning disability
- splenic dysfunction
- a weakened immune system due to disease (such as HIV/AIDS) or treatment (such as cancer treatment)
- morbidly obese (defined as BMI of 40 and above).
The flu jab is available free from GP surgeries and pharmacies for people in the at-risk groups and through a school based programme for children aged four to nine years.
Mike McDermott, associate director of Public Health at East Riding of Yorkshire Council, said: “The more people who are vaccinated, the lower the likelihood and spread of infection, reducing pressure on the NHS and Social Care during winter months.”
Flu occurs every year, usually in the winter, which is why it’s sometimes called seasonal flu. It’s a highly infectious disease with symptoms that come on very quickly. Colds are much less serious and usually start gradually with a stuffy or runny nose and a sore throat. A bad bout of flu can be much worse than a heavy cold.
The most common symptoms of flu are fever, chills, headache, aches and pains in the joints and muscles, and extreme tiredness. Healthy individuals usually recover within two to seven days.
Mike continued: “Flu is dangerous, highly contagious and largely preventable.
“For most people who catch flu it is unpleasant, but for some it can lead to chest infections, severe complications and even death.”
When an infected person coughs or sneezes, they spread the flu virus in tiny droplets of saliva over a wide area. These droplets can then be breathed in by other people or they can be picked up by touching surfaces where the droplets have landed.
You can prevent the spread of the virus by covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, and you can wash your hands frequently or use hand gels to reduce the risk of picking up the virus.
Mike added: “The best way to avoid catching and spreading flu is by having the vaccination, especially those at high risk.
“Don’t be put off getting the flu vaccination. If you are eligible get it now, it’s free because you need it.
“If you have a long-term health condition, even one that is well managed, have a BMI of 40 or over or are pregnant, you are at greater risk of severe complications if you catch flu.
“The nasal spray vaccination is a quick, painless and effective way for children aged two to nine to be protected from flu without the need for injections.”
Local GP and East Riding of Yorkshire Clinical Commissioning Group Chair Dr Gina Palumbo, said: “The best way to look after yourself and your loved ones this winter is to ensure all those who are recommended to have a flu jab receive one.
“Flu can be horrible for little children so it’s important to protect them from becoming unwell.
“Children are also ‘super-spreaders’ of flu and vaccinating them can protect more vulnerable members of the community.
“When you’re pregnant your body’s immune system naturally weakens and as a result, flu can cause serious complications for you and your baby.
“Speak to your GP, pharmacist or midwife; you can get vaccinated at any point during your pregnancy, however fit and healthy you might feel.”
Details of flu clinic times are available from individual GP practices. For more information about who should have a flu jab, visit www.nhs.uk
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