Plea for patients at risk to get free flu jab

A Generic Photo of a woman suffering with flu. See PA Feature WELLBEING Wellbeing Column. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/thinkstockphotos. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature WELLBEING Wellbeing Column.
A Generic Photo of a woman suffering with flu. See PA Feature WELLBEING Wellbeing Column. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/thinkstockphotos. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature WELLBEING Wellbeing Column.

A Belper doctor is urging people at risk from the potentially devastating consequences of flu to take advantage of a free jab at the start of an NHS flu campaign.

Each year 600 people die in the UK from seasonal flu – a figure which can rise to around 13,000 deaths during a flu epidemic.

This year’s target group include the under-65s with a medical condition, the over-65s, pregnant women, unpaid carers and people living in long stay residential homes.

Dr Mark Browne, a GP partner from Duffield’s Appletree Medical Practice, said: “There are a lot of misconceptions about the flu jab, including that having the jab will give you flu.

“But it is not possible to catch flu from a flu jab as there is no live virus in the vaccination.

“And for those people who are more susceptible to illness it could quite literally mean the difference between life and death.”

Around 146,000 people in Derbyshire had the flu jab last year, including three out of four elderly patients. But despite this, thousands left themselves exposed to the risks of the virus – among them more than 5,000 pregnant women and over 30,000 elderly patients.

Raising awareness of the need for pregnant women to have the jab was also critical, according to Dr Browne.

“Pregnant women are known to be at greater risk from flu, which is why they are now being routinely offered the flu jab along with other groups.

“But a lot of expectant mothers still don’t recognise the need for the jab, or are nervous simply because they are usually told to seek advice before taking medication when pregnant.

“However, the vaccine is perfectly safe, and helps to prevent serious, life-threatening complications during pregnancy including pneumonia and premature labour. Having the jab also protects the baby for the first few months of life – newborn babies are more vulnerable to infections because of a weakened immune system, but the mother will pass on her immunity to the child if she has the jab while pregnant.”

GPs in Belper began their ‘Get the Jab, Get Flu Safe’ flu campaign, backed by NHS Southern Derbyshire Clinical Commissioning Group, this month. Patients wanting to book an appointment to have their jab can contact their GP.

Help and information on flu and its symptoms is freely available by ringing the NHS on 111. All eligible patients from Appletree Medical Centre have been invited to drop-in clinics which are running today, Wednesday, October 24, from 12.30pm to 3pm and on Saturday, November 3, from 8.30am to 11am.

At-risk patients are more susceptible to the virus because they have an existing health condition or their immune systems are not working as efficiently. These include elderly people aged 65 or over, pregnant women, and those with those with long-term illnesses such as diabetes, asthma and heart disease. The vaccine is also offered free of charge to carers and people living in long stay residential care homes.

For more go to www.derbycitypct.nhs.uk/staying-healthy/derbyshire-flu-safe/.