Don’t wait until flu is circulating - protect yourself now
From Monday 3 October, GPs will be seeing millions of people in at risk groups to have their flu vaccine, Chief Medical Officer Dame Professor Sally Davies today announced.
Flu is a very unpredictable virus. For most it’s an uncomfortable illness that can come on quite suddenly and severely. Symptoms usually include fever, chills, headaches and aching muscles as well as a cough and sore throat. But last year over 600 people died from flu and the majority were in clinical at risk groups.
People who are in the clinical at risk group are 11 times more likely to die if they get flu than a “healthy” person - for some groups, like those with chronic degenerative neurological diseases, that risk rises to 40 times.
Clinical at risk groups include those with:
- a heart problem;
- a chest complaint or breathing difficulties including, bronchitis, emphysema;
- a kidney disease;
- lowered immunity due to disease or treatment (such as steroid medication or cancer treatment);
- a liver disease;
- a history of stroke or a transient ischaemic attack (TIA);
- a neurological condition e.g. multiple sclerosis (MS) or cerebral palsy; and
- a problem with, or removal of, their spleen e.g. sickle cell disease.
The flu vaccine is free to everyone in these groups because flu can be serious for them if they catch it. It is also offered free of charge to:
people aged 65 years and over;
- all pregnant women; and
- the main carer of an older or disabled person.
If you haven’t had your flu vaccination by the end of October, get in touch with your practice and make an appointment.
Dame Professor Sally Davies said:
“People often don’t think about the flu vaccine until the virus is circulating - but by then it could be too late. It takes five to ten days for the vaccine to take effect so it is important to get the flu jab before flu is about. I’d urge everyone eligible for the flu vaccine, particularly those in the clinical at risk groups, to get vaccinated as soon as they are able. Protect yourself early to minimise the risk of getting flu.
“Flu can be a serious illness - particularly for those in an at risk group. It can result in a spell in hospital, and sadly flu kills. The best way to protect yourself is to be vaccinated.”
The Government’s Director of Immunisation Professor David Salisbury said:
“About three-quarters of older people get their flu vaccine each year, but only around half of younger people in at risk groups get vaccinated. You are really putting your health at risk if you don’t take the time to be vaccinated.
“A ten minute appointment with your GP could save your life.”
Notes to Editors
1. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advises the Government on which groups should be vaccinated. It is an independent expert advisory committee. The JCVI gives advice to Ministers based on the best evidence reflecting current good practice and/or expert opinion. The process involves a robust, transparent, and systematic appraisal of all the available evidence from a wide range of sources. Members of the committee are appointed on merit by the Appointments Commission.
2. Extrapolated estimates for the population groups eligible for seasonal flu based on data on patients registered at GP practices:
Aged 65 or over - 8.8 million
Under 65s in at risk groups:
- 6 months to 2 years - 14,000
- 2 years to under 16 years - 540,000
- 16 years to under 65 years - 4.8 million
3. For media enquiries only, please call the Department of Health newsdesk on 020 7210 5221. Non media callers should contact the customer service centre on 020 7210 4850.