Young children part of winter flu jab campaign
PLYMOUTH'S public health team is urging people to protect themselves and get vaccinated against seasonal flu.
The flu jab is available on the NHS for pregnant women; people with a serious underlying health problem; all adults aged 65 years or older; people living in long-stay residential or nursing homes; and two and three-year-old children who are now being offered a new annual nasal spray flu vaccine.
Kevin Elliston, acting director of public health, said: "The vaccine is given as a nasal spray squirted up each nostril. The nasal spray works better than the injected flu vaccine in children. It's quick and painless and will mean your child is less likely to become ill if they come into contact with the flu virus.
"In the UK, vaccinations are easily available through GPs and I would urge people to get vaccinated and ensure that their children are up to date with all childhood vaccinations.
"Health and social care workers are also being encouraged to take up the vaccine in order to protect their patients and clients, themselves and their colleagues from flu."
Flu injections will continue to be offered to over-65s, pregnant women and adults with long-term medical conditions.
A spokesman for Plymouth City Council said: "Flu vaccine is offered annually to those over the age of 65 years, those under 65 with certain long-term conditions and those women who are pregnant. Health and social care staff providing care are also advised to have a flu immunisation.
"The uptake for our elderly in particular is really good – consistently above 75 per cent and above the regional and national average – thanks to the hard work of the city's GPs and community nurses. Over the last few years, uptake has remained high and increasing in the vulnerable groups, reflecting the importance of this vaccine in reducing circulating influenza.
"Last year saw an increased uptake to 45 per cent for pregnant women which in part was due to the introduction of the pertussis vaccine for this group.
We are continuing to increase uptake in those with long-term conditions, where levels are lower at 54 per cent and are targeting this group in particular this year."
The council said that this year would see the beginning of an extension of the annual flu jab to "all children aged two to 17 years."
The spokesman said: "This is being rolled out as a phased programme over the next couple of years, being offered to all two and three-year-olds this year in Plymouth."
Flu is an infectious viral illness normally spread in small droplets of fluid spread by coughs and sneezes. It is more commonly spread in the autumn and winter months, which is why it is referred to as seasonal flu.
Symptoms are typically a sudden high temperature, headache, aches and pains, tiredness and a sore throat. Feeling sick, tiredness and loss of appetite are also common. Most people feel much better after a week from the onset of symptoms.
Councillor Sue McDonald, cabinet member for public health and adult social care, said: "Flu is preventable and although most people recover fairly quickly it can cause complications for people in those higher risk groups."
GP surgeries will be contacting people eligible for free vaccinations over the next few weeks.
Dr Steve Harris, of the Northern, Eastern and Western (NEW) Devon CCG, said: "Influenza can be a serious illness and outbreaks are responsible for significant time off from work. Healthcare professionals are being encouraged to have the vaccination both to protect themselves and the vulnerable patients they will be coming into contact with. It is important that our clinical community stays well this winter so that we can deal with pressures of winter."
It is important to have a flu jab each year to maintain the effectiveness of the vaccination. Flu strains often change so new vaccines are produced which is why people need to renew the jab every year.