As we head into autumn the NHS is appealing to people of all ages who are eligible for the free flu vaccination to take up the offer and protect themselves and help stop the spread of flu this winter.
Flu hospitalises and kills thousands of people every year and in response the NHS offers free flu vaccinations to those who are more vulnerable. Eligible groups include people with long term medical conditions or weakened immune systems; adults aged 65 and over; pregnant women and front line health and social care workers.
This year the vaccination is also being offered to people living with anyone who is shielding because they are at a higher risk from Covid-19, and Year 7 school children.
Everyone who is at greater risk from flu is eligible for the jab, regardless of their age, yet research by the Healthier Together Citizen’s Panel in Bristol shows that people aged 25 to 44 are less likely to take up the vaccination than those in other age groups.
This puts them at risk of serious illness, as well as increasing the chance that they will pass on the virus to vulnerable friends and relatives – a serious issue for the NHS when it’s already dealing with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Why do some people not take up the flu jab even when they’re offered it? Local GPs say that in many cases, people think that the flu is just a minor illness, or don’t believe the vaccine will help them – damaging myths that can have a serious impact on people’s health.
Dr Geeta Iyer, local GP and Primary Care Provider Development Clinical Lead at Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group said: “Flu can cause people to be seriously unwell and this year of all years it’s vital that we protect at-risk groups who might also be at higher risk from Covid-19 as well. That means getting the jab if you’re offered, not only because it will protect you, but because it will reduce the chance of your friends, loved ones and elderly relatives getting the flu too.
“It also helps the NHS protect people from Covid-19 because if fewer people are hospitalised with flu, hospitals will have more capacity to look after Covid-19 patients.”
If you’re in an eligible group, you may already have had an invitation from your GP practice to get the vaccine – and if not, it will be arriving soon. Vaccinations are available from GP practices as well as pharmacies, so you can get your jab wherever’s easiest.
Pregnant women can also get the flu jab from their midwife.
Children aged 2 and 3, primary school children and those in Year 7 at secondary school are also being offered the vaccination via a nasal spray. Toddlers between 6 months and 2 years old and in a high-risk group for flu are offered an injected flu vaccine because the nasal spray is not licensed for children under 2.
Common myths about the flu jab
‘The flu jab gives you flu’
Adults aged 18 to 64 are offered an injected inactivated vaccine; there are different types, but none contains live viruses so they cannot give you flu.
‘The flu jab isn’t effective’
The vaccine is the best protection we have against the flu. Studies have shown that the flu vaccine will help prevent you getting the flu. It will not stop all flu viruses and the level of protection may vary, so it’s not a 100% guarantee that you’ll be flu-free, but if you do get flu after vaccination, it’s likely to be milder and shorter-lived than it would otherwise have been. There’s also evidence to suggest that the flu vaccine can reduce your risk of having a stroke.
‘I’ve had the flu jab before so I don’t need it again’
Over time, protection from the injected flu vaccine gradually decreases and flu strains often change. New flu vaccines are produced each year, which is why people advised to have the flu vaccine need it every year.
Where to get the flu jab
You can get the flu jab by appointment from your GP, community pharmacist or, if you are pregnant, from your midwife. All locations that offer the flu vaccination will have social distancing in place, have appropriate cleaning measures and health and care staff who administer the vaccination will be wearing face coverings and other protective clothing to manage the spread of infection
Healthier Together Citizens’ Panel
The Healthier Together Citizens’ Panel is a public involvement initiative across Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire made up of more than 1,000 people who form a representative cross-section of the region’s residents. It enables individuals to voice their views on health and care matters in their area, while helping to influence and shape the future of the area’s health and care services.
- 70% of people were likely to consider getting the flu vaccination this year
- People aged 25 – 44 years were the least likely to consider getting the flu vaccination, with 48% stating they were unlikely to consider getting it this year
- Men were less likely than women to consider getting the flu vaccination, with 40% of men stating they were unlikely to get the jab compared to just 14% of women
- People had a range of preferences for how to receive the flu vaccine this year, with people preference driven by perceptions of safety, trust in healthcare professionals and convenience
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