Demand among eligible groups for the free NHS flu vaccine has reached unprecedented levels in Wales. Community pharmacies and GP surgeries across the country are experiencing high volumes of enquiries, and many report current appointments are full.
Public Health Wales is reassuring all eligible Welsh residents that enough flu vaccines have been ordered for them to have a free NHS flu vaccination this year.
Mirroring a trend across the UK, the Welsh public has embraced calls from GPs and community pharmacies, Public Health Wales and the Welsh Government, for those at most risk from flu to get an annual vaccination.
Public Health Wales has confirmed what the Health Minister has previously announced, that more flu vaccinations will be available in Wales than ever before to vaccinate the people considered most vulnerable to flu.
Dr Richard Roberts, Head of the Vaccine Preventable Diseases Programme at Public Health Wales said:
“GP surgeries and pharmacies have ordered sufficient vaccine supplies for those who are vaccinated year after year. In addition Welsh Government have arranged additional supplies to meet extra demand this year.
“Some of those eligible for a flu vaccine are having to wait longer than usual to secure an appointment, but I would like to reassure everyone that sufficient stocks are available for those recommended the vaccine.
“Please be patient while your GP surgery and community pharmacy are working hard to respond and schedule appointments.
“The flu virus typically doesn’t start circulating until mid-December, so you have plenty of time to get a flu vaccination. Having a flu vaccine every year is one of the most effective ways to protect against flu.”
Public Health Wales is also advising that not all pharmacies and GP surgeries have received their full supply of flu vaccinations yet, which is normal. And, as is the case every year, supplies are delivered on a phased basis to GPs and pharmacies.
This year, extra flu vaccines have been procured by Welsh Government, and are scheduled to arrive in November, to make sure there are enough vaccines available for eligible individuals.
To keep people safe from COVID-19, a number of additional measures have been put in place in healthcare settings such as community pharmacies and GP surgeries, which means appointments for a flu vaccine this year may take slightly longer than usual. To help address this, more clinics are being held.
Those currently eligible for a free NHS flu vaccine include people with a long term health condition, people aged 65 and over, pregnant women, children aged two to ten years old, carers, domiciliary carers and care home staff with regular client contact as well as care home residents.
Flu vaccine is also free for Community First responders and volunteers providing planned first aid. Annual flu vaccination is also recommended for all frontline health and social care workers to protect themselves and those they care for.
Children aged two and three (on 31 August 2020) and all primary school children (reception to year six) will be offered the vaccine in the form of a nasal spray. Children from two years old that have a long-term health condition can also receive a nasal spray vaccine.
For this season’s flu programme, new groups have been added to the eligible list. The new eligible groups include household contacts of those on the NHS shielded patient list and all people with a learning disability.
Anyone can catch flu. Symptoms are likely to include; a fever, chills, tiredness and weakness, a headache, general aches and pains and a dry, chesty cough. In up to half of cases people can have flu without even realising it – and they can still spread it to others.
Some COVID-19 symptoms are similar to flu so check the latest advice and follow the current COVID-19 guidelines.
To help stop flu and other viruses spreading, remember to ‘Catch it, Bin it, Kill it.’
This flu season, arrangements may be different due to Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). For the latest information, and to check eligibility, visit www.beatflu.org or www.curwchffliw.org or search Beat Flu or Curwch Ffliw on Twitter and Facebook.