- Posted by: Mike Hedges MS
- Category: Press Releases
Beat flu this winter, urges Mike Hedges AM
Vaccination is the single best way to protect yourself and others against influenza (flu), a potentially life threatening illness
The annual NHS Wales Beat Flu campaign, which encourages everyone eligible for flu vaccination to get protected, is now underway.
The free vaccine is being made more widely available to now include all primary school children and pre-schoolers aged two and three. For the first time the vaccine is also being offered to staff with regular client contact working in residential care and nursing homes this winter.
Annual flu vaccination is the best protection against catching or spreading flu, a potentially life-threatening infection. Every year over two thirds of those aged 65 and over and almost half of people in at-risk groups in Wales get their flu jab.
Over 820,000 flu vaccines were given by NHS Wales last year.
Mike Hedges AM, Assembly Member for Swansea East is urging people to take advantage of the free vaccine on offer: “I have had the flu and was very ill, I lost a week of my life, it is not a heavy cold it is a serious disease”
Developments for this year include:
• All primary school children are now eligible for a free nasal spray flu vaccine, as well as children aged two and three years (age on 31 August 2018).
• Staff in adult care homes who have regular contact with residents can have a free NHS flu vaccine at many community pharmacies. This will help protect care home residents who are more vulnerable to complications from flu and reduce the spread of flu.
• To improve effectiveness different flu vaccines recommended for different age groups are being introduced this year. Delivery of supplies of certain flu vaccines to GP practices and community pharmacies will be staggered between September and November. Some people may be asked to wait until the most effective vaccine for them is available. It’s planned that everyone will be offered vaccination before mid-December when flu typically starts to circulate.
Pregnant women, people with long-term health conditions and everyone aged 65 and over are also eligible for a free NHS flu vaccination, along with unpaid carers and first aid volunteers. All health and social care staff with direct patient or client contact are also recommended to have the vaccine to protect themselves and those they care for. They can ask their occupational health department or employer about where and when to get their vaccine.
Dr Richard Roberts, Head of the Vaccine Preventable Disease Programme at Public Health Wales, said: “Each year new flu viruses circulate, causing many people to be ill and some to face life-threatening complications. And flu vaccines are changed each year to try to match the flu viruses circulating in order to give the best protection.
“Last winter there were 2,680 patients with confirmed flu in hospitals – 192 in intensive care units. As well as the impact on these individuals, this places an additional pressure on the health service at a busy time of year.
“People with chronic conditions or compromised immune systems are over ten times more likely to suffer severe outcomes from influenza and we want to see even more people protected this year.”
While most NHS flu vaccines are given in GP surgeries, it is also available for adults in many community pharmacies across Wales.
Flu is a respiratory illness caused by a virus that affects the lungs and airways. Symptoms generally come on suddenly, and can include fever, chills, headache, cough, body aches and fatigue.
Flu is spread via droplets which are sprayed into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Direct contact with contaminated hands or surfaces can also spread infection. It can spread rapidly, especially in closed communities such as hospitals, residential homes and schools.
Find out more by visiting www.beatflu.org or www.curwchffliw.org or finding Beat Flu or Curwch Ffliw on Twitter and Facebook.
This year, the vaccination programme has been extended to include all children of primary school age (reception class through to year 6) as well as two and three year olds. In 2017-18 flu vaccine uptake in two and three year olds was 50.2%, and in children aged between four and eight years it was 68.3%.
For the first time this year, staff who work in adult residential care homes and nursing homes who are in regular contact with residents will be eligible for the free vaccine via community pharmacies. Staff working in children’s hospices in Wales will also be offered the vaccine as part of the scheme.
Last year in Wales, uptake of flu vaccine in clinical risk groups (ages 6 months – 64 years) was 48.5%.
Vaccine uptake in those aged 65 and over was 68.8% in Wales last year.
For more information visit www.beatflu.org
About Public Health Wales
Public Health Wales is an NHS organisation providing professionally independent public health advice and services to protect and improve the health and wellbeing of the population of Wales.
Public Health Wales has four statutory functions:
• To provide and manage a range of public health, health protection, healthcare improvement, health advisory, child protection and microbiological laboratory services and services relating to the surveillance, prevention and control of communicable diseases;
• To develop and maintain arrangements for making information about matters related to the protection and improvement of health in Wales available to the public; to undertake and commission research into such matters and to contribute to the provision and development of training in such matters;
• To undertake the systematic collection, analysis and dissemination of information about the health of the people of Wales in particular including cancer incidence, mortality and survival; and prevalence of congenital anomalies; and
• To provide, manage, monitor, evaluate and conduct research into screening of health conditions and screening of health related matters.
• More information on Public Health Wales is available at www.publichealthwales.org