Health and care chiefs from across the North East and North Cumbria are asking people to #DoYourBit to protect yourself, your loved ones and your community by having a free flu vaccination this winter.
The plea comes as the region starts its biggest ever flu vaccination programme with more people eligible for the free vaccine this year and amid concerns the months ahead could be tough in light of COVID-19.
Lead for the North East and North Cumbria Flu Board and local GP, Dr Neil O’Brien, said: “This year it’s never been more important for people to take up the offer of a free flu vaccination. Flu spreads easily, it can be very serious and even kill.
“For some people flu can be as serious as COVID-19 and those most at risk from flu are also more vulnerable to COVID-19. Having the flu vaccination is still the most safe and effective way of protecting yourself and others. And contrary to what people think the vaccine doesn’t give you flu.
“Like COVID-19 – you can have no flu symptoms but you are still able to still spread flu to your friends and family. So, not only is it important that people get the vaccine but that they continue to wash their hands and socially distance. If you sneeze – remember to catch it, bin it and kill it. Doing all of these things will help to protect you from both.”
Health and care organisations are also reassuring the public that it’s safe to have the vaccine – with robust infection control and social distancing measures in place across the region.
Neil added: “Because of COVID-19 things may look a bit different this year but wherever you receive your flu vaccination our teams will be making sure that there are strict infections control procedures in place so there is no need to be worried about coming along for the vaccine.
“You will notice staff wearing some PPE, such as a face mask, but it’s also important for people who are receiving their vaccine to do their bit by wearing a face covering and follow rules on social distancing.”
For the vast majority of people across the region, the vaccination will be provided by GP practices or pharmacies. Pregnant women will be offered the vaccination through their maternity services and some patients may be offered the vaccine while attending hospitals and other clinics.
Neil added: “In some cases vaccinations may be given by someone different or somewhere different – so that we don’t have lots of people in waiting areas and to ensure we get as many people vaccinated as possible. In some areas we will be asking people not just to turn up but to check arrangements being made by their GP practice or pharmacist first.”
The annual vaccine works by boosting antibodies, helping the body to fight off the virus, and it is free for people who are at increased risk from the effects of flu. The vaccine is safe and doesn’t give you flu. Some people may experience a mild fever, up to 48 hours after having their jab, as their immune system responds to the vaccine, but this is not flu.
You should have the flu vaccine if you:
- Are 65 years old or over
- Are pregnant
- Have certain medical conditions (aged 6 months to 64 years)
- Are living in a long stay residential care home or another long-stay facility
- Are living with someone who’s at high risk from coronavirus (on the NHS shielded patient list)
- Receive a carers allowance, or you’re the main carer for an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if you fall ill
The vaccine is also free on the NHS for some children including those aged 2-3 years, all primary aged school children and year 7 pupils. Young children are able to spread the virus for up to 10 days so it is important to have them vaccinated to protect older more vulnerable members of the community. Parents are being asked to look out for information about the vaccination programme and to sign the consent form which will give permission for their child to have the vaccine at school.