Protect yourself and your family this winter by getting the flu vaccine

As the nights draw in it’s time to think about how to stay fit and healthy during the winter months. One of the best ways is to get the flu vaccine.

Flu is an unpleasant illness that can knock even very healthy people right off their feet and it can also cause worrying complications for more vulnerable people.

Last winter saw a large number of flu cases especially after Christmas and more than 200 people were admitted to intensive care in the South East alone last year because of the flu virus.

But getting vaccinated is a great way to guard against getting poorly from the flu or developing more serious complications and this year the vaccines available will provide even better defence against the virus.

The vaccine for people aged under 65 will protect against four strains of the virus (last year it was three) and this year there is an enhanced vaccine for everyone aged 65 and over which offers even more protection because it contains an additional boost designed to help the immune system develop strong defence against the flu virus. This is particularly important for this age group as immunity decreases with age.

The flu vaccine is offered free on the NHS to:

• All children aged 2-3 years old. It’s given as a quick, painless nasal spray and parents should contact their GP to book an appointment

• All school-aged children who are in Reception – Year 5. Again the vaccine is given as a quick, painless nasal spray and will be done through a clinic at school

• Everyone aged 65 and over. Book an appointment with your GP or pharmacist

• All pregnant women.Arrange a vaccine with your GP or midwife

• People aged under 65 with certain health conditions that make the flu more serious like diabetes, heart and lung conditions or the immunosuppressed

Noel Brown is Buckinghamshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Engagement and Public Health.

He said: “I can’t emphasise enough how important this is. The flu is a horrible illness and getting vaccinated is a really easy way to prevent catching it. I will certainly be getting my vaccine this year, especially as I have diabetes so, like other people with some health conditions, catching flu could have more serious consequences for me.

If you have a young child aged between 2-3 years old please get in touch with your doctor and arrange their vaccine too. It’s a really nasty illness for little ones to catch, plus they tend to spread viruses more easily so it helps protect the people they come into contact with too. Likewise, if you’re at any stage of pregnancy talk to your GP or midwife about getting your free vaccine as it will help protect both you and your baby”

We also want to ‘myth bust’ a few common misconceptions about the flu and the vaccine:

“Getting the flu vaccine will give me a mild version of the illness”.

FALSE: The flu vaccine does not contain any live virus so you cannot get the flu from the vaccine. Some people may experience a very mild fever or mild aches and pains after having the vaccine but this is an immune system response and simply shows the vaccine is working.

“I don’t need the vaccine as I never catch the flu”

FALSE: You may have been lucky enough not to have caught the flu previously, or have been vaccinated in the past but unfortunately this doesn’t mean you’re immune to the flu. Different strains of the virus circulate each year so if you come into contact with it there’s a chance you will develop the illness, whether you’ve had it or not in the past. Getting vaccinated will help avoid this.

“Getting the flu isn’t that bad – it’s like a common cold”

FALSE: The symptoms of the flu virus can be much worse than a cold and can make even healthy people feel really poorly for a few days. (although the majority of people will get better on their own after a few days in bed.)

“It’s January and I haven’t had the flu yet so I’ll be OK this year”

FALSE: Cases of the virus tends to peak around December and January so if you’re exposed to it you may still develop the illness. It’s best to get vaccinated during the Autumn in October or November so your immunity develops before the main flu season but it’s never too late to protect yourself from flu.

Good hand and respiratory hygiene is important to help prevent getting flu but having the vaccine is the best way to protect you and your family.

So contact your GP or pharmacist to find out more and book your appointment today.

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