Get the flu vaccine, health body urges

AS we move into November, the Public Health Agency (PHA) is reminding people who are eligible for the flu vaccine but haven’t yet had it, to get it as soon as possible.

There has been a very good start to the vaccination programme with a similar number of people vaccinated as this time last year – which had record levels of vaccine uptake.

The PHA is urging all those in ‘at risk’ groups, including over 65s, pregnant women, children, and adults with some serious medical conditions, as well as youngsters attending schools for children with severe learning difficulties, to get their flu vaccine as soon as possible.

Flu can cause serious illness and result in a stay in hospital, or even death for people in these categories. Even if you feel fit and healthy, if you fall into one of the at risk groups it is important that you remember to get the vaccine.

Dr Richard Smithson, Consultant in Health Protection, PHA, explains the importance of remembering to get the flu vaccine for ‘at risk’ groups: “With busy lives it is easy to forget about the flu vaccine, especially when you feel fit and well. But it is important to make the effort to remember to get the flu vaccine at your GP’s surgery.

“The flu vaccine does not give you the flu. It is there to protect ‘at risk’ groups because if they get flu, they are more likely to have severe illness and/or develop complications such as pneumonia, which can be life-threatening.

“Pregnant women are more likely to have serious illness if they catch flu, which is why they will be invited by their GP at all stages of pregnancy, to protect them and their unborn baby.

“We are very pleased with the start to the flu vaccine campaign, with many people having already taken the opportunity to get vaccinated. However for those who haven’t had it yet they should arrange to get it as soon as possible.

“We can never be sure when the flu virus will start to spread, some years it comes earlier than others, so it is important to get the vaccine as soon as possible. If you wait until flu arrives here, it may be too late for the vaccine to protect you.”

It is also important to remember that the flu virus can differ every flu season, which is why you need to get the vaccination every year, so even if you received the vaccine in spring this year, you still need to get the vaccination for the 2012/13 flu season.

For more information on seasonal flu go to www.fluawareni.info and follow us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/publichealthagency) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/publichealthni).