13 Jan 2016

Public Health

Bristolians encouraged to have flu jabs to keep their communities safe

As the weather turns colder thousands of local people are being encouraged to have a flu jab to keep them, and their communities, safe from the virus.

Residents in ‘at-risk’ groups, which include pregnant women, anyone with a long term health condition and those over 65 can have their vaccine for free by popping into a pharmacy or their GP surgery. Frontline health and social care staff can get free jabs through their employers.

Everybody is at risk from flu, but some people are especially vulnerable and in danger of severe, and even fatal, illness if they catch the virus. It’s also highly infectious and spreads rapidly via small droplets sneezed or coughed into the air by an infected person. A single child can quickly infect a whole family – and an adult can quickly pass it on to the whole workplace.

George Ferguson, Mayor of Bristol is encouraging everyone to get vaccinated. He said: “It only takes a few minutes to get your free flu jab and I’d strongly encourage everyone who’s eligible to do so. Staying in good health should be a priority for us all.”

Becky Pollard, Director of Public Health at Bristol City Council, said: “Flu is a miserable experience for everyone, but for people in the at-risk groups it can be life threatening. Getting the flu jab is one way to help protect against the virus and ensure that you don’t pass it on to friends and family.  Many people don’t take the risk of flu seriously enough until they catch it and it’s too late to do anything about it. The flu jab is given to millions of people each year and it is thoroughly tested to ensure it is safe – so I’d encourage all local residents in at risk groups to go and get vaccinated.”

Councillor Fi Hance, Assistant Mayor for Neighbourhoods with responsibility for Public Health, added: “It’s not too late to get your flu jab and it’s quick and easy to do, so there’s really no reason to put it off.”

Each year around 750,000 people nationwide visit their doctor with flu symptoms with about 27,000 people needing hospital treatment. Last year the vaccination coverage for pregnant women was 41% and for two year olds and three years olds was just 38%. The World Health Organisation recommends that at least 75% of people in these groups should be vaccinated to prevent the virus being able to circulate at a harmful level.

Local GP and Bristol CCG clinical lead for urgent care Dr Peter Goyder said: “The cold weather can aggravate existing health problems and make us more vulnerable to illnesses.

“So if you’re eligible for a flu vaccination you really should get it – it’s free because you need it.

“If you’re in an ‘at-risk’ group, which includes those aged 65 and over, pregnant women or those living with a long-term health condition, you are at greater risk of severe complications if you catch flu.

“The flu vaccination is also available for young children as a nasal spray that offers a quick, painless and effective way to be protected without the need for injections.”

Flu vaccines are available from your local GP surgery or pharmacy now. For more information visit: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Flu/Pages/Introduction.aspx.