WIGAN health chiefs are urging people to go and get their flu jab amid fears cases of the virus could reach record highs this winter.
The borough’s director of Public Health, Dr Kate Ardern, and the chair of the Wigan Borough Clinical Commissioning group (WBCCG), Dr Tim Dalton, both had their jabs this week as the campaign to get people vaccinated continues.
For the first time, a nasal spray vaccine is being offered to all two and three-year-old children because they are key “spreaders” of the virus.
People over 65, adults and children with long-term health conditions and pregnant women are known to be at risk.
Scores of people in the borough were admitted to intensive care with flu last year.
This follows research which found that young children’s close contact with each other means they are more likely to transmit the virus to other vulnerable people, such as babies and elderly people.
Dr Ardern, said: “While flu is an unpleasant illness for most people, it can pose a greater risk for some and become very serious.
These groups include older people (aged 65 plus), people with a long-standing illness such as heart disease, respiratory disease, liver disease, kidney disease, diabetes, etc.
People with a weak immune system either due to disease or because they are on medication are also considered a risk group, as are pregnant women
“People in these categories will be invited for immunisation by their GP, however, if you do not receive an invite but believe you are in a risk group, do contact your GP.
“The Flu vaccine used for the standard campaign is an ‘inactivated virus’.
“It does not cause flu and most people have no or mild side effects.”
The national flu vaccination programme should eventually include annual vaccination of all two- to 16-year-olds. At present the Government says it would not be effective for the NHS to vaccinate every healthy person against flu.
However people can still pay for the flu vaccine at their local pharmacy.
Dr Paul Cosford, medical director for health protection at Public Health England, said flu was unpleasant for the majority of people but could be life-threatening for others.
“It can be very serious for older people and those groups at risk of developing complications including people with weakened immune systems, as well as those with underlying conditions such as neurological disorders, liver, lung or renal disease, heart problems or diabetes, and pregnant women.
“Vaccination remains the best way to protect against the potential serious harm from flu this winter.”
A national advertising campaign is being launched by Public Health England to encourage parents of two to three-year-old children, and other at-risk groups, to take up the offer of a vaccination.
Prof Dame Sally Davies, chief medical officer, said being protected against flu was vital for certain groups of people.
“Severe winter flu and its complications can make people really ill and can kill - you are eleven times more likely to die from flu if you are in a clinical at-risk group.
“I urge everyone who is eligible to get the vaccine and help protect themselves and their families this winter.”
For information or advice on vaccinations, contact your GP.