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It’s not too late to get your flu vaccination

Our guest blogger this month is Danielle Lawrence, Public Health Strategist in the Camden and Islington Public Health Team. The flu vaccine is offered every year by the NHS to help protect people at risk of flu and its complications. The flu vaccine is a safe and effective vaccine.

 

Each winter people in eligible groups are offered a free flu vaccination by the NHS to help protect themselves, those they care for and the wider community from flu.  This year there is the additional threat of coronavirus. 

It is more important than ever for eligible people get a flu vaccination.  The flu vaccine provides the best protection against flu and the serious illness it can cause.  This year eligible groups include:

  1. People who are at high risk of experiencing serious illness due to flu infection.  This includes people who are aged 50 and above, are pregnant, have learning disabilities, live in long-stay residential care, are homeless, and those with certain health conditions such as diabetes, severe asthma or heart conditions.
  2. People who live with or care for people in vulnerable groups and may pass flu to these vulnerable people.  This includes carers, frontline health and social care workers and people living with someone on the NHS shielded patient list.
  3. Children aged 2-12 years who are super-spreaders for flu and may pass flu on to others in the community who are more at risk of becoming very sick.

In Camden we are seeing good flu vaccination uptake for people aged 65 years and above, but for all other eligible groups uptake is much lower than the 75% target.  In a few groups, uptake is currently less than half of this target.  There are also differences between who is getting their flu vaccination.  People with higher incomes have higher uptake of flu vaccination compared to others.  BUT… there is still time to improve this.

We need your help to make sure that every eligible Camden resident knows that they can have a free flu vaccination, why they should have it and where they can get it.

Local Camden GP, Dr Davé, has shared why he gets a flu vaccination every year.

“Before training to become a GP I thought that flu only really affected older people and people with health conditions.  But catching flu for 2 years in a row completely changed my view.  I was completely knocked out for a week each time.  I had severe fatigue and fever.

“Now I get my flu vaccination as soon as it becomes available.  The flu vaccine is safe and effective, and because it is inactive it cannot give you flu.  Side effects are rare.  You may get a sore arm, but this passes.  Getting a flu vaccination protects me, my co-workers and my patients from flu.  My children also get their flu vaccination.  It is important for me to lead by example.

“Flu can cause debilitating illness in some people.  If someone’s lungs are already affected due to lung disease or lung cancer, or if someone has heart disease or has had a stroke, catching flu can cause additional strain and may result in them ending up in hospital.

“Practices try to encourage eligible patients to get their flu vaccination.  We send letters, texts and also call patients, and we have conversations with patients to share evidence on why they should get their vaccination.  But there is still a significant minority who decline flu vaccination, which is heart-breaking.

“We have made changes in the GP practice to keep patients and staff safe.  We have a one-way system in place, social distancing is supported, appointments for flu vaccination must be booked and waiting times are shorter.  Staff wear PPE and patients wear face-coverings.  Far fewer patients are in the practice at any time.”

The NHS should have contacted you if you are eligible for a free flu vaccination.  Please contact your GP practice if you have not heard from them yet.  If you are not registered with a GP practice you can get your flu vaccination from a participating pharmacy. 

Adults can get a flu vaccine at pharmacies, via your GP or, if you’re pregnant, through your midwifery service.  School aged children up to year 7 will be offered their flu vaccine at school.   If your child misses their vaccination, you can book an appointment at a catch-up clinic by calling the school vaccination team on 020 3317 5076.  For children aged 2-3 years please book an appointment at your GP practice.

Thank you for reading.  And remember the best way to protect yourself, your family and your community from flu this winter is to get your flu vaccination.

Danielle Lawrence is a Public Health Strategist in the Camden and Islington Public Health Team.  Please send any queries to CIPHAdmin@islington.gov.uk.