People most at risk of flu are being urged to get their free NHS vaccination as soon as possible, before flu season hits.
This year, more people than ever are being offered the free vaccine, including those more likely to develop serious complications such as pregnant women and people with long term health conditions including asthma, diabetes and heart conditions.
In the South West only 34% of pregnant women and 41% of people with long term conditions have had the vaccine, so people in these groups are being urged to book in with their GP or pharmacy urgently.
Older people are also encouraged to get vaccinated, and this year free vaccination has been extended to everyone aged 50 and over.
So far more than 860,000 over 65s in the South West have taken the step to protect themselves against the potentially serious illness, which is more than 75% of people in that age group.
Grandmother Jane Meredith, 68, from Bristol is joined by her granddaughter Florence to star in a new NHS short film to highlight why these groups of people are being targeted for vaccination.
Jane said: “I was proud to be asked to take part in the flu vaccine advert. I worked for many years in social care and I am aware how hard the NHS and social care work to keep older and vulnerable people as well as possible, especially at this time of year.
“This year there is extraordinary pressure on hospital staff and it is important we all play our part in keeping as well as we possibly can both for ourselves our families and those that may be called upon to care for us.”
Flu is dangerous and easily spread, even by people with no symptoms. In an average year the virus kills 11,000 people in England and hospitalises tens of thousands more. With COVID-19 still a very present threat, this year is anything but a typical year.
But, while the threat is invisible the protection is clear – the flu vaccine is the best protection available and can be given quickly and easily at a GP or pharmacy. Vaccinating more people this winter will help protect the NHS too.
Ian Biggs, Director of Primary Care and Public Health for NHS England and NHS Improvement in the South West, said: “The flu can be serious, especially for vulnerable people, and we know it’s easily spread too.
“Thank you to everyone who has already taken the important step of getting vaccinated, to protect both yourself and those around you.
“If you haven’t had your jab yet please do as soon as possible before we start seeing cases of flu rise in the South West.
“We hope these new videos will show how safe and easy it is to get vaccinated. Our GP and pharmacy colleagues are stocked with the vaccine and are ready for you.”
Dr Jonathan Roberts Screening and Immunisation Lead for Public Health England (PHE) South West said: “This winter, more people than ever are being offered a free flu vaccine but uptake in some of the eligible cohorts remains low.
“There is still time to get vaccinated against flu before it starts circulating in the community and we are urging anyone who is eligible to take up the offer of a vaccination – particularly those with underlying health conditions and health and social care workers where we tend to see lower uptake – to help protect themselves, their family and the NHS.”
For more information about flu vaccine eligibility visit https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/flu-influenza-vaccine/