Still time to get flu vaccine: PHA

Flu vaccine

Under-65s with health condition in particular being urged to get vaccinated

The Public Health Agency (PHA) is urging all remaining eligible people whose health could be seriously affected by flu to get the free flu vaccine. GPs across Northern Ireland are offering flu vaccination to everyone over 65, people under 65 with underlying health conditions, pregnant women, and children aged 2-4 years of age.

Dr Jillian Johnston, Consultant in Health Protection at the PHA, said: “Flu is now circulating in Northern Ireland as expected and, while the levels remain low, it is likely to increase over the next couple of months. Our data show that there are several flu strains now circulating which can affect all age groups, with the main one particularly affecting people aged under 65.

“Last year’s flu season, when flu activity was the highest seen since the 2009 pandemic, is a reminder that flu can be serious, especially in individuals with underlying health conditions and older age groups. This year, we are seeing a higher proportion of flu cases among people aged under 65 with an underlying health condition in intensive care/ high dependency units (ICU/HDU) who could have got the vaccine.

"It is therefore important that all those eligible for vaccination make arrangements with their GP surgery to get it if they haven’t already.

Despite the phased delivery of the flu vaccine aimed at those aged 65 and over, thanks to good planning by GP surgeries and patience among people aged 65 and over in particular, we have seen uptake in over-65s surpass the rate among under-65s with a health condition.

“We are therefore particularly urging people under the age of 65 with an underlying health condition such as asthma, heart disease or diabetes to get vaccinated.”

Dr Johnston continued: “Flu can be a very unpleasant illness, and in some cases, very dangerous. People with health conditions, older people and pregnant women should get the vaccine now to help protect their health and the health of others around them. Last year we saw an increase in flu circulation, so it is important that we don’t get complacent.

“Winter pressures have a major impact on our health service, but by getting vaccinated against flu, we can play our part in reducing the burden and helping to protect our own health too.

“It is also important to remember that the strains of flu virus can vary from year to year, which is why you need to get the vaccination every year, so even if you received the vaccine during the 2017/18 programme, you still need to get the vaccination for the 2018/19 flu season. While we advise people to get vaccinated before flu starts to circulate, there’s still time to get the jab before the number of cases increases.

“The message is clear – don’t delay any longer; get vaccinated.”