Fears over slow uptake of winter flu vaccine

Flu jab
Flu jab

HEALTH officials are pleading with Wigan residents to get their flu jab before the cold weather kicks in.

They say take-up has so far been slow, but are urging people not to ignore the offer after scores of people ended up in intensive care last winter.

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.

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.

Scores of people in the borough were admitted to intensive care with flu last year.

Dr Kate Ardern, Wigan’s director of public health, 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 and diabetes.

“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.

For information or advice on vaccinations, contact your GP.