Public Health England urges those at highest risk of flu to get vaccinated

People who are the most vulnerable to flu are being urged to get their free vaccination ahead of the winter period when the virus is most common.

The Chief Medical Officer has warned that flu and complications associated with it cause 8,000 deaths on average a year in England. Around 6,000 of these are people with heart and lung disease.

This year, more people than ever – around 21 million – will be offered the vaccination.

The national drive marks the start of Stay Well This Winter, an initiative from Public Health England and NHS England to help the most vulnerable people prepare for winter and avoid having to visit hospital due to common winter illnesses.

 Professor Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer said:

 “The harsh reality is that flu can kill and the best way to protect yourself is to get the jab.

“With more people eligible than ever before and the vaccine available in more locations, people should protect themselves and those around them from flu. Taking a few minutes to get the jab could save your life this winter.”

The vaccine is the best form of protection against flu. Vaccinating those who are most likely to get flu also offers a protective effect for the rest of the population by reducing the overall spread of the virus.

People with respiratory diseases like 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 those who have had a stroke, are 11 times more likely compared with 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.

Professor Paul Cosford, Director for Health Protection and Medical Director at Public Health England, said:

“For someone with a long term health condition like asthma or COPD, flu has the potential to turn very serious. Last winter, uptake increased amongst people in clinical risk groups and we want to continue this trend. We want as many eligible people as possible to get their jab, as it is the best way to protect everyone from flu and minimise the burden on the NHS during the season when it faces the most pressures.”

Around 6.3 million people under 65 in England have a long-term health condition and are more at risk of suffering potentially fatal complications from flu. Last year, uptake amongst high risk groups increased by 3.5% amongst eligible people.

Those who are eligible for the free flu vaccine include:

  • Adults over 65
  • People with long-term health conditions, including asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), bronchitis, emphysema, diabetes, kidney or liver disease or diabetes
  • People with neurological conditions like cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis. motor neurone disease or Parkinson’s
  • People who have Alzheimer’s, a learning disability or had a stroke
  • Pregnant women
  • Children aged 2 and 3, as well as pupils in reception class and school years 1 to

And if you are the main carer of an older or disabled person you may also be eligible for the free flu jab – speak to your GP

The Stay Well This Winter campaign – from NHS England and Public Health England

Focus on Disability is supporting the 2016/17 Stay Well This Winter campaign.

The Stay Well This Winter campaign is a joint initiative from NHS England and Public Health England, which encourages people with long-term conditions and those over 65 to be ready for the colder season and to seek immediate advice and help from a pharmacist as soon as they feel unwell, before their condition gets more serious.

Cold weather can be very harmful, especially for people age 65 or older: it weakens the immune system, increases blood pressure, thickens the blood and lowers body temperature, increasing risks of high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, and chest infections. For those with COPD; bronchitis, emphysema; diabetes or heart and kidney, cold weather, and winter illnesses such as flu, can make health problems like these far worse.

Stay well this winter

There are a number of things which can help people prepare against the cold weather.

It is important to keep warm in winter – both inside and outdoors as it can help to prevent colds, flu and more serious health problems, such as heart attacks, strokes, pneumonia and depression. Heat your home to at least 18°C (65°F), if you can, you might prefer your living room to be slightly warmer.

At the first sign of a cough or a cold get help from your pharmacist before it gets more serious and make sure you speak to your pharmacist about medicines you should have in stock to help get you and your family through the winter season.

Keep an eye out for elderly relatives and neighbours. Supporting them in the cold weather can help them stay well this winter.

And it’s still not too late, if you are eligible make sure you get your free flu jab. It’s free because you need it. Contact your GP or pharmacist. If you are the main carer of an older or disabled person you may also be eligible for the free flu jab, speak to your GP.

The Stay Well This Winter campaign can help you and your family prepare for winter. Visit www.nhs.uk/staywell for more information. Or follow the campaign on twitter or facebook at #StayWellThisWinter