The new initiative aims to help make it easier for patients to get vaccinated.
Patients are usually invited to their GP practice and one of its flu clinics for the jab.
But new measures have been put in place to try to tackle a lack of uptake with vaccination rates remaining roughly the same over a number of years and the NHS is some 25% short of its vaccination targets.
Apart from the over 65s, flu vaccination rates tend to fluctuate between 40% and 50%. The aim is to vaccinate 75% of those considered to be “at risk”.
Having the flu jab helps protect the vulnerable and those around them. A statement warned: “Flu can be really serious if caught by those who have compromised health.
“It’s really important those who are invited to have the free jab take the time to do so.”
It is hoped that offering the vaccination at pharmacies will make it more convenient and encourage uptake.
Who is ‘at risk’?
Those considered “at risk” are those over 65 or anyone who has a long-term health condition such as diabetes, COPD or heart problems.
“At risk” means that, should you catch flu, your condition makes it harder for your body to fight the infection, you’ll take longer to recover and it can sometimes have severe and occasionally fatal consequences.
Pregnant woman are also considered “at risk”. This is because pregnancy changes a woman’s immune system, heart and lungs and so they can be more prone to serious illness should they get flu. It also offers protection to the unborn baby.
Carers that receive Carers Allowance can also inquire about the free jab. It helps protect them and the people they care for.
An NHS spokesman said: “Flu isn’t like a common cold. Those that are usually fit and healthy can take up to a month to fully recover. It’s a really nasty illness so you need to do everything you can to protect yourself.”
If you’re in an ‘at risk’ group and haven’t yet had your jab, you can now ask at your local pharmacy to see if they are offering the free NHS vaccination.
You will need to take your invitation letter from your GP practice with you and the pharmacist will do all the paperwork to let your GP know you’ve had it.
You can also protect yourself against flu by following these steps:
Adopting good hand hygiene. Touching things not only spreads, but picks up germs, too. And this is the most common way to pick up germs. Wash hands regularly using soap and water, and always make sure your hands are dried thoroughly after washing. Achoo! Cough or sneeze into a tissue, put it in the bin and wash your hands to stop the spread of germs. Don’t keep used tissues; you’re just carrying the germs around. It really is that simple.
You don’t have to be in an “at risk” group to have a flu jab. Many pharmacies offer the vaccination for a fee.
For more information about how to stay well this winter, visit www.nhs.uk/staywell
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