Public Health England (PHE) and the NHS’s joint Stay Well This Winter campaign has launched with the national flu vaccination programme, now available nationwide to all eligible people.
Last year in Yorkshire and the Humber, 38% of children aged 2-4 years were vaccinated, with children also offered the vaccine in school years 1, 2 and 3. The vaccine was also administered to 48% of people in at-risk groups and 72% of people aged 65 or older. Uptake by pregnant women nationally was 45%.
Free flu vaccination is offered to those who are at increased risk from the effects of flu. These include children aged 2-8, people aged 65 and over, pregnant women and people with long-term health conditions such as diabetes, respiratory disease, heart and liver diseases.
The Stay Well This Winter campaign will help the most vulnerable people in the East Riding prepare for winter and avoid having to visit hospital due to common winter illnesses.
People who are the most vulnerable to flu are being urged to get their free flu vaccination, ahead of winter when the virus is most common.
The programme launches as the Chief Medical Officer has warned that flu, and complications associated with it, causes 8,000 deaths on average a year in England.
This year’s campaign aims to continue to increase uptake of the flu vaccination.
Councillor Jane Evison, portfolio holder for transforming lifestyles at East Riding of Yorkshire Council, said: “It’s important that people look to stay as healthy as possible this winter and the best way to avoid catching and spreading flu is by having the vaccination.
“This is why we are urging everyone who is eligible for a free flu vaccination to take up the offer. The vaccination is quick, straightforward and free of charge.”
Dr Kevin Smith, from PHE in Yorkshire and the Humber said: “Flu is never pleasant at the best of times, but for some people it can lead to very serious complications. The best way to protect yourself and those you love is to make sure you or they get vaccinated.
“If you’re someone who’s most at risk your vaccination is free – so contact your GP or pharmacist, if you haven’t done so already, and make sure you get this protection. It will help you stay well this winter.”
People with respiratory diseases like Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), emphysema or asthma are seven times more likely to die if they catch flu, and people with cardiovascular problems like chronic heart disease or angina, or have had a stroke, are 11 times more likely compared to those who don’t. The risk is far worse for those with chronic liver disease, who are 48 times more likely to die if they get flu.
Another way of protecting vulnerable adults is to vaccinate children, who are ‘super-spreaders’ of the virus. Last year’s flu vaccination programme reduced the risk of flu in children who received the vaccine by 65%. For healthy children aged 2-8 the flu vaccine is given in the form of a nasal spray, administered by a health professional.
Paul Twomey, Medical Director for NHS England in Yorkshire and the Humber said: “Flu is a really unpleasant illness, particularly for those who are vulnerable such as the elderly, those with long-terms conditions or young children.
“Flu tends to circulate from September until March but the vaccination is available now from pharmacists and GP surgeries. I would urge everyone who is eligible for the vaccination to go and get it as soon as possible to protect themselves and those around them.”
To get your vaccine or find out if you are eligible, contact your GP, pharmacist or midwife for more information. Visit nhs.uk/staywell for more details on how to help you and your family to stay well this winter.
For more information, please visit: nhs.uk/staywell
PHE exists to protect and improve the nation’s health and wellbeing and reduce health inequalities. It does this through advocacy, partnerships, world-class science, knowledge and intelligence, and the delivery of specialist public health services. PHE is an operationally autonomous executive agency of the Department of Health. www.gov.uk/phe. Follow us on Twitter @PHE_uk.
The national flu campaign will also encourage pregnant women to protect themselves against flu in the run up to winter. Pregnancy naturally weakens the body’s immune system and as a result, flu can cause serious complications for the mother and baby.
For the first time, year 4 children will be offered the vaccine in a school setting, along with children in reception and years 1, 2 and 3. Evidence shows this method ensures greater uptake of the vaccine, and consequently offers greater population protection through herd immunity.
Children aged 2-3 are offered the flu vaccine in GP surgeries.
Australia has experienced high flu activity this past winter, with increased GP attendances and flu confirmed hospitalisations peaking in mid-August. The predominant flu A subtype in Australia this season was the A(H3N2). This is the same sub-type that circulated in the UK last winter. Flu activity in the Southern Hemisphere is not generally an indication of expected flu activity in the subsequent Northern Hemisphere winter. It is not possible to predict the dominant circulating strain in the UK next winter.
East Riding of Yorkshire Council