Protect yourself and your family – time to get the flu vaccine

As the winter months start to draw in, health and social care services across Buckinghamshire are appealing to the public to ensure that they vaccinate themselves, their children or relatives as soon as they can.

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 flu vaccine is offered free on the NHS to:

  • All children aged 2-10 years. It’s given as a quick, painless nasal spray. If your child goes to school then the vaccine can be given by the school nursing team. If not, then please contact your GP to book an appointment.
  • Everyone aged 65 and over. Book and 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

The vaccine for people aged under 65 will protect against four strains of the virus 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.

Also this year more vaccines are available and every primary school child will be offered a flu vaccine. Children are ‘super spreaders’ of flu. Flu vaccination not only protects the children but it also protects other more vulnerable members of the community from a potentially horrible illness.

Likewise, women who are pregnant can talk to their GP or midwife about getting the free vaccine as it will help protect both them and their baby.

If you are not eligible for a free flu jab but would still like to have one, many pharmacies will provide the vaccine as a private service for a small fee.

Gareth Williams, Cabinet Member for Community Engagement & Public Health said, “I can’t emphasise how important this is.  The flu is a horrible illness and getting vaccinated is a really easy way to prevent catching it.  If you or your child is in an eligible group, make sure you get a flu vaccine. It’s the best defence we have against an unpredictable virus.

“Anyone working for Buckinghamshire County Council is able to get vaccinated for free.  We would encourage other employers to try and do the same, so that we can help keep our workforce well during the winter season.”

Raj Bajwa, Chair of NHS Buckinghamshire Clinical Commissioning Group said: “We have been working with GPs across Buckinghamshire to prepare for the winter season.  This year, a wider range of flu vaccines are available which should offer better protection. This includes the adjuvant vaccine which was offered to those aged 65 years and over for the first-time last year. The adjuvant vaccine provided a higher level of protection compared to the standard non-adjuvant vaccines in this age group last year.  To stay well this year, we strongly encourage people to get the vaccine.”

Jackie Smith, Head of Occupational Health and Wellbeing, Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust said, “This year we have already started to see patients with confirmed cases of flu which is much earlier in the season than normal. We would encourage those who are eligible for a free flu vaccination to take up the offer as you are not only protecting yourself but also others around you. Every year, the flu vaccine is offered to NHS frontline workers to reduce the risk of staff contracting the virus and to keep patients safe.”

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.

As well as getting the vaccine, practising good hand hygiene by catching coughs and sneezes in a tissue, throwing it away and washing your hands after can help limit its spread – catch it, bin it, kill it.

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