‘Get flu jab’ warning to at-risk groups

Cynthia Lyons, East Sussex acting director of public healthPEOPLE at risk of flu and its complications are being urged to protect themselves by getting vaccinated against the infectious disease.

East Sussex County Council’s public health team is backing a national drive to encourage people to get the flu jab before the onset of winter.

Older people, young children, pregnant women and people with serious long-term health conditions are entitled to free flu vaccinations on the NHS.

However, while 72 per cent of over-65s in East Sussex took up the offer of a free flu jab last year, just 40 per cent of pregnant women were vaccinated – well short of the national target of 75 per cent.

Frontline health and social care workers are also urged to get the flu jab to protect themselves, their colleagues and those they care for.

Cynthia Lyons, East Sussex acting director of public health, said: “For most otherwise healthy people, flu is an unpleasant illness but one which usually clears up by itself within a week.

“However, people in at-risk groups who contract flu are far more vulnerable to developing potentially serious complications such as pneumonia.

“In particular groups, such as pregnant women, the uptake rates are far below the level we’d like to see, so we’d strongly encourage people in an at-risk group to get themselves vaccinated.”

In 2014-15, 72 per cent of over-65s in East Sussex received the flu jab, roughly in line with the national average for England.

Among pregnant women, 40 per cent were vaccinated, an increase from the previous year’s figure of 34 per cent but below the national average of 44 per cent.

Last year, the flu vaccine was available as a painless nasal spray to four-year-olds for the first time – a service available to two and three-year-olds since 2013.

However, just 35 per cent of two-year-olds, 39 per cent of three year-olds and 30 per cent of four-year-olds in East Sussex received the vaccine.

People in the at-risk groups eligible for a free flu jab can arrange to receive the vaccination by talking to their GP or practice nurse. Frontline health and social care staff should arrange to get their jab through the system available to them.

More information about flu is available online at www.nhs.uk/conditions/flu