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People urged to get their flu vaccine before peak hits

Children who are aged two and three are eligible for the flu vaccine nasal spray via their GP surgery.

Public Health England and NHS England are urging people to get vaccinated against flu (PA)
Public Health England and NHS England are urging people to get vaccinated against flu (PA)

By Jane Kirby, PA Health Editor

Delays to the nasal-spray flu vaccine for schoolchildren have been resolved, Public Health England (PHE) said, as it urged all eligible people to take up the vaccine.

Earlier this month, some schools were told to reschedule plans for vaccinating children after AstraZeneca said it needed “to repeat some tests” for the nasal spray.

The problems were not related to the safety or efficacy of the vaccine itself and the adult flu programme was not affected by the delay.

Now, the issue has been resolved and primary school-age children will once again receive their vaccines via rescheduled clinics.

Parents of children in high-risk groups, such as those with asthma or diabetes, are still being advised to contact their GP to be seen sooner.

Children who are aged two and three are eligible for the flu vaccine nasal spray via their GP surgery.

People aged 65 and over, children and adults with underlying medical conditions and pregnant women are urged to get their free vaccine in the next few weeks before the flu season peaks, typically in January.

Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at PHE, said: “The flu vaccine is the best defence we have against what can be a serious and fatal illness, and flu season is just around the corner.

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Eligible people are urged to contact their GP about getting the jab (David Cheskin/PA)

“If you are in an eligible group, visit your GP or pharmacist as soon possible to ensure you are protected.”

Professor Stephen Powis, NHS England national medical director, said: “Flu can be extremely serious and even kill in some cases, and getting vaccinated is the best protection against it.

“NHS services across England continue to work hard to prepare for the winter season, including staff getting their free flu jab, and now we’re appealing to the public to ‘Help Us, Help You’ by ensuring that they and their eligible children or relatives get vaccinated, now.”

Professor Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said: “Influenza can be a very unpleasant illness, and while it is not generally a serious illness for most people, for those in at-risk groups, such as young children, elderly people, those with long-term conditions and pregnant women, flu has the potential to trigger life-threatening complications.

“The best defence against the flu is to be vaccinated and we strongly urge all patients in at-risk groups to get vaccinated and for parents to ensure their young children receive their vaccine as soon as possible.”

At-risk groups eligible for the flu vaccine include people with a chronic neurological disease; respiratory, heart, kidney or liver disease; diabetes and the over-65s.

Pregnant women have a much higher risk of serious illness if they get the flu, with possible complications including pneumonia, septic shock and encephalitis (inflammation of the brain).

Clare Livingstone, professional policy adviser at the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), said: “The RCM recommends that pregnant women have the flu vaccination.

“The flu is a highly infectious illness, which can be very serious during pregnancy for both mums-to-be and their babies.

“That is why we are encouraging all pregnant women to have the vaccine as soon as possible so they are protected from flu viruses circulating this winter.

“It’s important that if pregnant women have any questions or concerns about the flu vaccination or any vaccination in pregnancy that they speak to their midwife, GP or practice nurse who can provide them with more information and advice.”

PA

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