Get the flu jab

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PEOPLE in the Coleraine borough whose health could be seriously affected by flu are being urged to get the free flu vaccine as the Public Health Agency (PHA) launched its seasonal flu vaccination programme for 2012/2013.

The message going out to local people in ‘at risk’ groups, including over 65s, pregnant women, children and adults with some serious medical conditions, as well as youngsters attending schools for children with severe learning difficulties, is ‘Flu is more serious than you think – so get the flu vaccination now’.

GPs will now be inviting patients in ‘at risk’ categories, including people with severe egg allergies, to get the seasonal flu vaccine and protect themselves and their loved ones.

This year children aged 2-17 in ‘at risk’ groups, such as those with asthma, heart conditions or cerebral palsy, will receive the flu vaccine via a nasal spray. From 2014 all children aged between 2-17 years inclusive will receive the flu vaccination, via a nasal spray.

For those people in ‘at risk’ groups, flu can cause serious illness and result in a stay in hospital, or even death. Even if you currently feel fit and healthy, you may be at increased risk of flu and should receive the free vaccine.

It is also important to remember that the flu virus can differ every flu season, which is why you need to get the vaccination every year - so even if you received the vaccine in spring this year, you still need to get the vaccination for the 2012/13 flu season.

Dr Gerry Waldron, Acting Assistant Director, Health Protection, PHA, explains the importance of the flu vaccine for ‘at risk’ groups: “Everyone who receives an invitation to be vaccinated against flu should see it as a positive step in protecting their health and the health of others around them.

“The flu vaccine does not give you the flu. It is offered for the sole reason to protect ‘at risk’ groups because if they get flu, they are more likely to have severe illness and/or develop complications such as pneumonia, which can be life-threatening.

“Pregnant women are more likely to have serious illness if they catch flu, which is why they will be invited by their GP at all stages of pregnancy, to protect them and their unborn baby. Health and Social Care staff are also urged to get vaccinated, to protect themselves, their families and those they care for.”