NHS Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group’s (CCG) Medical Director is encouraging those eligible to get their flu vaccination and help minimise the spread of flu this winter.
The following groups of people are eligible for free flu vaccinations, either via their GP or pharmacist; all adults over the age of 50, pregnant women, children aged 2 to 15 years old (on 31 August 2021), people aged 6 months to 50 years with underlying health conditions or those with a learning disability. These groups are at particular risk from flu and the vaccination is still the best protection against an unpredictable virus.
Social care and hospice workers are also eligible and vaccinations will be available through community pharmacy or their registered general practice on presentation of evidence of employment.
Children aged between school years reception and year 11 will be offered a nasal spray vaccine at school. Previously it was only children aged up to school year 7 that were offered the vaccine. This year, to protect more people, children in year 11 will also be offered the vaccination.
As a temporary measure, the offer of vaccines for 50 to 64 year olds will continue this year to protect this age group, as hospitalisation from covid-19 also increases from the age of 50 years onwards.
Flu is a severe viral infection of the respiratory tract (nose, mouth, throat, bronchial tubes and lungs). It is a highly infectious illness which spreads rapidly in communities and even people with mild or no symptoms can infect others. Flu is different to a common cold; symptoms of flu include a fever, chills, headache, aching muscles and joint pain and fatigue.
Dr Zak McMurray, a GP and Medical Director at NHS Sheffield CCG, said: “It’s expected that this year’s flu season will be worse than usually seen. For most healthy people, flu symptoms can make you feel exhausted and unwell and you have to stay in bed and rest until you get better, but for people with underlying health conditions, people with learning disabilities, pregnant women or the elderly flu can be very serious.
“It’s really important that if you are eligible for a free flu vaccine you take up the offer. It is offered to these vulnerable groups of people because we know that they need it to stay well during the flu season. This year with covid-19 still circulating, it is more important than ever that people have their vaccination. If you get flu and covid at the same time, research shows you're more likely to be seriously ill. Having your vaccination will help to reduce pressure on the NHS and social care staff who may be dealing with covid-19.”
If you are eligible for a free flu vaccination your GP will contact you to arrange an appointment. To help prevent the spread of covid-19, you will be given instructions to follow when attending the practice for your vaccination and staff will be wearing special protective clothing. Please don’t turn up to your practice without an appointment.
If you are not in the at risk groups but would like a flu vaccination, you can pay for the vaccination at your local pharmacy.
Aside from having your flu vaccine, the best way to prevent the spread of flu is to practice good hand hygiene. Wash your hands regularly, avoid touching your face with unclean hands, cough or sneeze in to a tissue or in to the crook of your arm – remember to throw the tissue away after and avoid contact with people who are ill. Following the covid-19 rules of staying at least 2m apart and wearing a face covering will also help stop the spread of flu.
If you think you have flu, stay home and rest until you feel better, call NHS 111 if you have an underlying health condition, are pregnant or elderly and feel really unwell.
Having a well-stocked medicine cabinet is useful for if flu strikes – paracetamol (or Calpol for children), ibuprofen, aspirin, cough medicine and throat lozenges may help alleviate the symptoms of flu. Remember, your local pharmacists can advise on the medicine you need to help you feel better.
For more information about the flu vaccination visit www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/flu-influenza-vaccine/.