Health chiefs urge take-up of free flu jab

District nurse Amy Bilton and  the new Director of Public Health, Penny Spring promote the  flu vaccination
District nurse Amy Bilton and the new Director of Public Health, Penny Spring promote the flu vaccination
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Free flu vaccines are available now to ‘at risk’ residents in Northumberland.

Public Health England has launched its seasonal flu campaign to encourage those who qualify for a free vaccine to take up the offer.

Flu is a highly contagious illness that spreads rapidly and can cause serious complications for the elderly, expectant mothers and people with long-term health conditions, such as asthma, diabetes and chronic heart disease.

The NHS immunisation programme provides free vaccines to people over 65, children aged two to four, pregnant women and people with long-term conditions.

NHS Medical Director for Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear Mike Prentice said: “Every year hundreds of thousands of people may see their GP and tens of thousands may be hospitalised because of flu each winter.

“Symptoms of flu can be very unpleasant and last for several days. It can lead to more serious complications like middle ear infections in children, pneumonia and bronchitis for some people.

“The best way to improve the prevention and management of flu is to increase the uptake of vaccination, especially among those in at risk groups and health and social care workers with direct patient contact.”

Last year in the region, 75 per cent of over 65s were vaccinated, 56 per cent of people with long-term conditions and 42 per cent of pregnant women.

Carers Northumberland is reminding people who are the main carer for someone who is ill or disabled that they can also qualify for the jab.

Information Officer Anne-Marie Johnstone said: “If a carer is struck down by the flu and becomes too ill to care, there may be no one else who can step in and look after the person they care for.”

For information about vaccination contact your GP or pharmacy.