“Just” the flu? There’s no “just” about it. Every year the flu virus kills people and hospitalises many more. This year it is even more important people who are most at risk of flu have their free flu vaccination.
Those who are vulnerable to flu are also vulnerable to COVID-19, so the NHS is offering to protect people who were on the shielded patient list in the early stages of the pandemic with the NHS funded flu vaccine.
Anyone of any age who is a household member or a carer of a person who was shielded, is also eligible for the flu vaccination for free this year. Shielded patients' “household members” are offered the vaccine to reduce the chance of them passing on flu on to someone who is vulnerable, as flu can easily spread even if someone is not showing symptoms.
If people in these groups have not already been contacted by your GP please call the GP practice you are registered with or your pharmacy to book an appointment.
Catching flu is more serious for those with a long-term health condition. It can make the effects of their existing condition worse and can cause series complications. Long term health conditions which can cause issues alongside flu include diabetes, a long term respiratory, heart, kidney, liver or neurological condition, a weakened immune system and obesity.
An average of 11,000 deaths occur annually due to flu-related complications. Of these deaths, many were in people with underlying conditions.
Flu is a highly infectious illness which spreads rapidly, even people with mild or no symptoms can infect others. If someone has a long-term condition, they're more vulnerable to the effects and could suffer more than most people if they catch it.
People with chronic heart disease are approximately 11 times more likely to die if they catch flu than individuals who have no other underlying health condition.
Flu is a particular threat to people with long-term conditions that include:
- respiratory conditions, such as asthma (needing steroid inhaler or tablets), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), including emphysema and bronchitis
- heart conditions, such as coronary heart disease or heart failure
- being very overweight – a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or above
- chronic kidney disease
- liver disease, such as hepatitis
- neurological conditions, such as Parkinson's disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), or cerebral palsy
- people with a learning disability
- problems with your spleen, for example, sickle cell disease, or if you have had your spleen removed
- a weakened immune system as the result of conditions such as HIV and AIDS, or taking medicines such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy
The NHS urges parents to get their children protected from flu
Thousands of children in Sussex are unprotected against flu this year. Flu symptoms come on very quickly and can be a very unpleasant illness in children with symptoms like fever, stuffy nose, dry cough, sore throat, aching and extreme tiredness, which can often last several days.
Children can face serious complications from flu virus, including a painful ear infection, acute bronchitis and pneumonia, so some may even need hospital for treatment.
Every child aged two to three is eligible and can receive the vaccine at their GP practice. Children in Reception to Year 7 will receive the vaccination at school.
Children of all ages with a health condition that puts them at greater risk of flu are also eligible for the flu vaccine.
Further information about the flu vaccine for children is available on the NHS website.
"We are urging parents to protect their children now from getting very ill from flu with the free flu vaccine from the NHS. The nasal spray vaccination is quick, effective and painless and robust safety rules are being followed wherever and whenever vaccinations take place whether that is at your GP practice or at your child’s school to make sure these are being done safely to every child, parents and staff.”
Further advice and resources
- Information from Brighton and Hove Clinical Commissioning Group regarding the flu vaccination is here
- NHS Guidance on who is eligible for free Flu Vaccinations is available here
- Why have the flu vaccination? Advice is available here. This includes translated materials.
- Frequently Asked Questions about the flu
- Information on the free flu vaccine is available in Easyread formats and in a variety of languages.