Pregnant women, elderly people and their carers, and people in Solihull living with long-term health conditions are being urged to plan ahead for the coming winter by rolling up their sleeves and getting a free flu jab.
Flu is an unpleasant but not particularly serious illness for the majority of the population, with most, otherwise healthy folk, finding themselves back on their feet within a week.
But for some people, the risk of complications from flu – for instance developing potentially life-threatening conditions like bronchitis or pneumonia – is very real, and the importance of being injected with a vaccine especially high.
Dr Anand Chitnis, Chair of Solihull Clinical Commissioning Group, the organisation responsible for buying healthcare in the area, said: “For a select group of people, the risks of complications from flu are real and it is vital that they take action to protect themselves by getting the yearly vaccine the NHS provides free of charge.”
You are eligible to receive a free flu jab if you:
- are 65 years of age or over (or will be 65 on 31 March 2016)
- are pregnant
- have certain medical conditions
- are very overweight – anyone with a body mass index (BMI) over 40.
- are living in a long-stay residential care home or other long-stay care facility
- receive a carer's allowance, or you are the main carer for an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if you fall ill
- are a healthcare worker with direct patient contact, or a social care worker.
“It is perfectly safe to get a flu jab at any stage of pregnancy from conception onwards and the vaccine will not put you or your baby at any risk,” said Dr Chitnis, who also practices as a GP in Castle Bromwich. “We would advise anyone who is pregnant to have the flu jab, regardless of the stage of pregnancy they have reached. That's because there's strong evidence pregnant women are at an increased risk of developing complications from flu.
“The jab will reduce the chance of contracting conditions like pneumonia, particularly in the later stages of pregnancy, reduce the risk of miscarriage, or of your baby being born prematurely or with a low birth weight because of the flu, and also protect your baby, offering them some immunity to flu in the first few months of their life.”
The vaccine is also given free of charge to NHS patients living with serious long-term conditions, including:
- chronic (long-term) respiratory diseases, such as asthma (which requires an inhaled or tablet steroid treatment, or has led to hospital admission in the past), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or bronchitis
- chronic heart disease, such as heart failure
- chronic kidney disease
- chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis
- chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson's disease or motor neurone disease
- problems with your spleen – for example, sickle cell disease or if you have had your spleen removed
- a weakened immune system as the result of conditions such as HIV and AIDS, or medication such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy
The annual nasal spray flu vaccine will be available for children aged two, three and four years old.
Those on the list of ‘at risk’ people, can arrange for a free flu jab by talking to their GP or pharmacy. If people are unsure whether they qualify but would like to find out more, pharmacists or GPs will be happy to advise.
Tags: Solihull long-term conditions flu jab vaccine pregnant maternity children child diabetes heart disease kidney disease liver disease respiratory copd asthma bronchitis nasal spray vaccination eligibility