Flu vaccination programme continues – don’t delay
The Public Health Agency (PHA) is urging everyone who falls into an eligible group to get the free flu vaccine ahead of the anticipated increase in spread of the virus.
Dr David Irwin, Consultant in Health Protection at the PHA, said: “After a very strong rate of uptake of the initial batch of vaccine, a temporary pause on some aspects of the seasonal flu vaccination programme was put in place until the next scheduled consignment of vaccine arrived.
“Approximately 200,000 doses of flu vaccine have now been received as planned, so we are urging everyone who is in an eligible group to get the free flu vaccine before flu starts circulating in the community.
“For most people, flu is a very unpleasant illness, but in some cases and for those in ‘at risk’ groups, it can be very dangerous and sometimes fatal. That is why we have a wide-ranging vaccination programme which helps protect groups at particular risk.
“The programme aims to help reduce the spread of flu and lower flu-related hospital admissions. This is particularly important at a time when the health service is already under strain as a result of COVID-19. It’ll also helps reduce your risk of contracting flu and coronavirus at the same time.”
GPs across Northern Ireland are offering flu vaccination to everyone over 65, pregnant women, carers at home, and people under 65 with an underlying health condition, as in previous years. Contacts of those who were shielding can also get it at their GP.
Pre-school children aged two years or over on 1 September 2020 can get the vaccine at their GP’s surgery, while primary school children, and for the first time Year 8 pupils, are being offered it at school by the school health service. The kids’ vaccine comes in the form of a quick, painless spray up the nose rather than an injection.
Health and social care workers, including care workers in the independent sector can get the flu vaccine this year either through their Trust’s flu clinics or at their local community pharmacy. This will be particularly useful for those who may not work in a hospital site such as care workers, district nurses, health visitors and social workers.
The vaccine is particularly important for these workers, as they often come into contact with vulnerable people, so getting vaccinated not only helps protect them, but also those they care for.
Dr Irwin continued: “With coronavirus likely to affect every community across Northern Ireland this winter, we cannot afford to be complacent about getting the flu vaccine this year.
“Each year the strains of flu in circulation change, so new vaccines are formulated to reflect this. That is why it is so important that everyone who falls into an eligible category gets the vaccine annually – if you got it last year, it won’t cover you for this year’s flu season. Also, while it won’t protect you from COVID-19, it may stop people getting both illnesses and putting strain on health and social care services, not to mention reducing their risk to their own health.”
Everyone who is eligible for vaccination should make themselves aware of their own GP surgery’s flu vaccination arrangements. GPs will have plans in place for eligible people to get the vaccine in time, so please work within these arrangements.
The list of participating community pharmacies who are offering the free flu vaccination for health and social care staff can be accessed at the following link: www.pha.site/CPFV
Health and social care workers can also link in with their own HSC Trust’s vaccination arrangements.
Dr Irwin concluded: “The flu vaccine does not give you the flu. It is offered as the best protection for ‘at risk’ groups because if they get flu, they are more likely to have severe illness and develop complications such as pneumonia, which can be life-threatening.
“It’s free, it’s quick, and it could make a big difference to your health and the health of those close to you.
“The message is clear – don’t take the risk; get the vaccine now.”
For further information on the 2020/ 2021 seasonal flu campaign see www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/flu-vaccine.