People who are the most vulnerable to flu are being urged to get their free vaccination ahead of the annual winter flu season.
Public Health England (PHE) aims to vaccinate roughly 13 million people.
Particularly targeted are the approximately 6.3 million people under 65 in England who have a long-term health condition, who are more at risk of suffering potentially fatal complications from flu. Last year, uptake among these groups increased by 3.5%.
‘For someone with a long term health condition, flu has the potential to turn very serious,’ said Professor Paul Cosford, PHE’s Medical Director. ‘We want as many eligible people as possible to get their jab, as it is the best way to protect everyone from flu and minimise the burden on the NHS during the season when it faces the most pressures.’
Vaccinating children, who are ‘super-spreaders’ of the vaccine, is another way for adults to be protected. For healthy children aged 2 and 3 the flu vaccine is in the form of a nasal spray, administered by a health professional. Parents of over 3 million children in reception class and school years 1, 2, 3 and 4 will be asked to agree to have their children vaccinated in school.
Dr. Rosemary Leonard, a GP and broadcaster, said: ‘Once ill, children also tend to spread infection more than adults. The vaccine helps to reduce the spread of flu to other more vulnerable family members, such as grandparents.’
Children in school year 4 (ages 8 and 9) will be offered the vaccine for the first time and children over age 4 in reception year can get their vaccine in school. Last year’s flu vaccination programme reduced the risk of flu in children who received the vaccine by 65.8% compared to those that didn’t. ‘Ensuring children get vaccinated is important not only to protect them from flu but also to stop then spreading it to vulnerable groups they come in to contact with,’ added Professor Cosford.