The NHS across south-east Hampshire today stepped up efforts to increase the number of people who have taken a flu jab this winter.
With so much focus on COVID-19, it’s easy to forget the importance of people protecting themselves – and their loved ones – from flu.
Whilst the flu season peaks between December and March, outbreaks can happen as early as October and as late as May.
Dr Tom Bertram, a Titchfield GP and the clinical director of a primary care network in the Fareham area, said: “With so much focus around the COVID-19 vaccinations, the message of the importance of the flu jab, especially for people in the more vulnerable target groups, could get lost – but is perhaps more valid now than ever.
“With all NHS services but especially GP surgeries and hospitals under so much pressure, the last thing I’m sure anyone wants is to add to that by falling very poorly with flu and needing hospital care when the risk of it can be so easily averted.
“The fact that the NHS made a record number of 30 million people eligible for a free vaccine this winter shows the importance we attach to the campaign this year. It’s not too late for people to get their jab and we would like to encourage everyone to take up the offer before the end of February.
“We are particularly keen to reach more people aged under 65 with underlying health conditions, where the take-up has not been as high as we would like.”
This year, the NHS is aiming to vaccinate around 4.5 million people in the South East – up from 2.6 million last winter.
For the first time, children in school Year 7, and household contacts and carers of those on the NHS Shielded Patient List, are eligible for the free vaccination. These groups are in addition to people aged over 65, under-65s with long-term health conditions, pregnant women, children aged two and three and children in primary school.
Patients eligible for a free jab should contact their GP or pharmacist. Anyone outside the target groups can pay for a flu jab at most pharmacies. Please note as a reminder that you should not contact your GP about COVID jabs – as you will be directly invited to attend a clinic if you are in the priority groups.
Dr Bertram added: “Fortunately some flu infections only result in mild or unnoticeable symptoms, but they still carry the risk that people can unknowingly pass the virus to vulnerable people they come into contact with.
“Whilst social distancing because of COVID has reduced the numbers of people we have seen with flu this winter, getting the flu vaccine is the single most effective way of protecting yourself and those around you. It could also ease pressure on the NHS and social care – and it could save someone’s life.”