‘At risk’ groups urged to get flu jab

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Newtownabbey residents whose health could be seriously affected by flu have been urged to get the free flu vaccine as the Public Health Agency (PHA) launched its seasonal flu vaccination programme for 2012/2013.

The message going out to people in ‘at risk’ groups, including over 65s, pregnant women, children and adults with some serious medical conditions, as well as youngsters attending schools for children with severe learning difficulties, is ‘Flu is more serious than you think - so get the flu vaccination now’.

Patients in ‘at risk’ categories, including people with severe egg allergies, have been invited to get the seasonal flu vaccine and protect themselves and their loved ones.

This year children aged 2-17 in ‘at risk’ groups, such as those with asthma, heart conditions or cerebral palsy, will receive the flu vaccine via a nasal spray.

From 2014 all children aged between 2-17 years inclusive will receive the flu vaccination, via a nasal spray. For those people in ‘at risk’ groups, flu can cause serious illness and result in a stay in hospital, or even death.

Even if you currently feel fit and healthy, you may be at increased risk of flu and should receive the free vaccine.

It is also important to remember that the flu virus can differ every flu season, which is why you need to get the vaccination every year - so even if you received the vaccine in spring this year, you still need to get the vaccination for the 2012/13 flu season.

Dr Gerry Waldron, acting assistant director, health protection, PHA, explained the importance of the flu vaccine for ‘at risk’ groups.

He said: “Everyone who receives an invitation to be vaccinated against flu should see it as a positive step in protecting their health and the health of others around them.

“The flu vaccine does not give you the flu. It is offered for the sole reason to protect ‘at risk’ groups because if they get flu they are more likely to have severe illness and/or develop complications such as pneumonia, which can be life-threatening.

As it takes approximately 10 days following vaccination to develop protection against flu, clinics are being held from October 1 onwards so that most people will have had the opportunity to receive the flu vaccine before the traditional peak of the flu season in December.