The Public Health Agency (PHA) is urging all those in ‘at risk’ groups to get their flu vaccine as soon as possible. The annual flu vaccination programme was launched in October and while so far there has been a good response to it, some people still haven’t taken up the offer. The PHA is reminding everyone that it’s not too late, it’s still important to get the vaccine and the vaccine is still available.
Dr Lorraine Doherty, Assistant Director of Public Health (Health Protection), PHA said: “It is always difficult to predict exactly when the flu season will peak, it is usually between December and February, but it is important to get vaccinated before then as it takes about 10 days for the vaccine to be effective. 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 seasonal flu vaccination programme specifically targets those in ‘at risk’ groups because they are more likely to have severe illness and/or develop complications if they get flu, such as pneumonia, which can be life-threatening.”
Dr Doherty added: “Pregnant women are being offered the flu vaccine this year if they didn’t get the swine flu vaccine last year, regardless of their stage of pregnancy. It is particularly important that they take up this offer because pregnant women are more likely to have serious illness if they catch flu, especially swine flu and we are expecting this virus to be the most common one circulating again this winter. Last year we saw a very good uptake among pregnant women with up to 70% receiving the vaccine and we need to see a similar response this year. Others who need to have flu vaccine this year include those with chronic neurological diseases such as cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis, especially children and young people, as they may be less likely to have received the flu vaccine in the past.”
The PHA reminds pregnant women that the vaccination is safe for your baby. It is licensed for use in pregnancy by the European Medicines Agency. Although pregnant women and their carers are naturally cautious about taking vaccines, there is no evidence of this type of vaccine doing any harm at all during pregnancy. Flu vaccines, including swine flu vaccines, have now been given to hundreds of thousands of pregnant women world wide and are very closely monitored.
This winter (2010/11) the influenza vaccine protects against the three strains which are predicted to be most prevalent. The H1N1 (swine flu) virus has been included as part of this year’s flu vaccine.
It takes approximately 10 days to develop protection against flu following vaccination, so if you are in an ‘at-risk’ group get the flu vaccine now, to protect yourself before the flu really arrives.
For more information about the flu vaccine for 2010/11 visit www.publichealth.hscni.net or speak to your GP/nurse or member of staff at the antenatal clinic in your local Trust.
Arrangements for surveillance of influenza are well developed across the UK. The PHA publishes the flu bulletin for Northern Ireland throughout the season. This is available on the PHA website at www.publichealth.hscni.net/publications
Contact the PHA press office on 028 9031 1611.
Notes to the editor
Who should get the flu vaccine?
• Anyone aged 65 or over.
• Children and adults who have any of the following medical conditions:
- a chronic chest condition such as asthma;
- a chronic heart condition;
- chronic liver disease;
- chronic kidney disease;
- lowered immunity due to disease or treatment such as steroids or cancer therapy;
- a chronic neurological condition such as stroke, multiple sclerosis or a condition that affects your nervous system, such as cerebral palsy.
• Pregnant women regardless of their stage of pregnancy.
• Anyone living in a residential or nursing home.
• If you are the main carer for an elderly or disabled person.