- Posted by: Joyce Watson MS
- Category: Feature
Joyce Watson AM is showing her support for Public Health Wales’s annual campaign aimed at getting more ‘at-risk’ people vaccinated to prevent them getting ill with flu, a debilitating and contagious illness that can kill.
The Mid and West AM is joining the calls being made by charities and health professionals and is urging people aged 65 or over, carers, pregnant women and those with certain chronic or long-term illnesses to make an appointment with their local GP and get the free flu vaccine.
Mrs Watson said:
“A major flu immunisation programme is underway throughout Wales to offer free vaccines to individuals most at risk of serious complications from flu, and my message to them is ‘Beat flu before it beats you!
“Last year in Wales only half (49.3%) of those in at-risk groups under the age of 65 took up their free NHS vaccination, and we really need to significantly increase the numbers of people being vaccinated in order to prevent the spread of this largely preventable illness.”
Commenting, Dr Richard Roberts, Head of the Vaccine Preventable Disease Programme at Public Health Wales, said:
“A free flu vaccine is available for those in at-risk groups, which includes those aged 65 or over, people who have long term health conditions which puts them at increased risk of complications if they get flu, carers, pregnant women as well as all two to six year olds.”
Dr Roberts added:
“For most people influenza (or ‘the flu’) is usually a relatively minor, albeit unpleasant and inconvenient, illness. But every year vulnerable people can and do die from the flu and its many complications.”
It is possible to prevent flu with a simple, and safe vaccination which is offered each year free of charge at GP surgeries and at some community pharmacies for those who are identified as ‘at risk’. Such patients risk potentially avoidable, serious infection and health set-backs from flu on top of their current condition.
The flu virus is spread easily via droplets which are sprayed into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Direct contact with contaminated hands or surfaces can also spread infection. It can spread rapidly, especially in closed communities such as hospitals, residential homes and schools.
Amongst the biggest group of ‘at risk’ patients are those from 6 months of age with chronic respiratory disease, such as moderate to severe asthma, and chronic heart conditions including angina and heart failure. Those suffering from diabetes, kidney, and liver problems or neurological disorders (such as stroke and mini stroke) are also at risk.
A further group at significantly increased risk of severe influenza are those with weakened immune systems due to disease or treatment with certain drugs, such as those receiving treatment for cancer or conditions such as severe rheumatoid arthritis. Those aged 65 or over, as well as all pregnant women, are also being targeted.
This list is not exhaustive so, if in doubt, patients are advised to check eligibility with their GP or health professionals.
This is the first year that five and six year olds have been included in the routine NHS seasonal flu vaccination campaign, which is given as a nasal spray to children from the age of 2. Two and three years were first offered the vaccine two years ago, followed by four year olds last year. For two and three year old children the vaccine will be given at their local GP surgery but for those in reception class and school years 1 and 2 it will be given by health professionals at their school.
Readers can find out more about how to get their free vaccine by visiting www.beatflu.org or www.curwchffliw.org, or finding Beat Flu or Curwch Ffliw on twitter and facebook.