PHA urges vaccine uptake as flu activity increases


The Public Health Agency (PHA) is urging everyone who is eligible to receive the free flu vaccine to make arrangements to get it to maximise their protection against the virus over winter. 

The call comes as the agency’s latest flu bulletin, [11 November—24 November 2019] published today, shows that there has been an increase in flu-like illnesses. The PHA is also highlighting the importance of hand hygiene and self-care when preventing and managing illness to reduce the spread of infection.

The latest figures from the PHA, although low, do show that people consulting their GP with flu or flu-like illness doubled between week 46 and week 47 (6.9 per 100,000 of the population to 14.2 per 100,000).  

Dr Gerry Waldron, Assistant Director of Public Health (Health Protection) at the PHA, said: “Each year we plan for flu during the winter months, so while the increase is not unusual, we are seeing it slightly earlier than expected. This reflects the unpredictable nature of flu, which is why it is important to get the vaccine to maximise protection.

“Receiving the seasonal flu vaccine is the best way to help protect yourself and others from getting the virus, so we are calling on everyone who is eligible to make arrangements now to get it if you haven’t already Those who can receive it for free through GP surgeries include people with an underlying health condition, people aged over 65, pregnant women and pre-schoolers aged 2-4.

“Primary school children get the vaccine through their school, so we would also encourage parents to make sure they have returned their consent forms for this.

“Respiratory illnesses such as colds and flu, as well as other illnesses such as vomiting and diarrhoea, can be very common at this time of year. For most people they are short-term, unpleasant illnesses, with most of us getting better within a few days. However, we can all play our part in keeping illnesses at bay and helping to protect more vulnerable people, for whom they can present a more serious risk.”

If you experience winter illness, such as cold, flu or vomiting and diarrhoea, follow these steps: 

  • Rest up
  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Carry tissues and use them to cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, dispose of the dirty tissues quickly Wash hands regularly
  • Always maintain good personal hygiene, in particular wash your hands after going to the toilet and before preparing or eating food
  • If you are vomiting or have diarrhoea, don’t visit friends or relatives in hospital or residential and nursing homes, and avoid visiting your GP’s surgery – it is much better to phone for advice first.
  • Clean hard surfaces (such as door handles) frequently using your usual cleaning product.

Advice on when to return to school or work after being unwell can be found at

If you’re feeling unwell, your local pharmacist can usually provide over-the-counter medication to help deal with your symptoms until your illness passes.

For further information on how to help yourself stay well this winter visit