Public Health Wales is urging all eligible people in Wales to have their free flu vaccine as NHS Wales begins its largest ever national flu vaccine programme.
Flu (also known as influenza) can be serious, particularly for those who are older or have a health condition and are more vulnerable to complications as a result of the flu. Having a flu vaccine every year is one of the most effective ways to protect against flu.
Children aged two to 10 years of age (age on 31 August 2020) will once more be offered nasal spray flu vaccine to help protect them from catching and spreading flu. Two and three year olds can get it at their GP surgery, and primary school children will generally get it in school.
In addition to groups previously eligible, for this season’s flu programme, new groups have been added to the eligible list.
The new eligible groups include household contacts on the NHS shielded list and people with a learning disability. People aged 50 and over may also be offered a free NHS flu vaccine later in a phased approach later in the season.
To promote flu vaccine, Public Health Wales has launched a campaign that features a new TV and radio advert as well social media and digital content. The campaign will be live from 21 September, with the TV advert first airing on 5 October.
Research conducted by YouGov, on behalf of Public Health Wales, revealed that 50 per cent of respondents that answered and said they would be eligible for a flu vaccine, believe having a flu vaccine is ‘much more important’ this year as a result of Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).
Casey Keegans, a mental health ward manager at Hafan Y Coed in Llandough Hospital and a current ‘Flu Champion’, said:
“It has always been important to have your flu vaccine, but particularly this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“For us, we definitely had an increase in admissions and people requiring mental health support as a result of the stress from the pandemic. That’s why we’re lucky we have a vaccine to help protect us against flu, which may be circulating at the same time as COVID-19 this winter.
“I know getting vaccinated can be anxiety provoking, but there are plenty of health professionals such as nurses, pharmacists and GP’s who will be able to reassure and support you.
“By having the flu vaccine, we’re not only protecting ourselves, but we’re also protecting those around us, especially individuals with pre-existing health conditions.”
Vaughan Gething, Minister for Health and Social Services, said:
“This year we are extending the flu vaccine to more people than ever before. Flu spreads very easily and anyone can catch it. However, it is especially dangerous to people that are more vulnerable, such as those with long term health conditions and pregnant women.
“I understand that some people may be concerned about going to their community pharmacy or GP surgery to get their vaccine because of COVID-19, but surgeries and pharmacies will be following the latest safety practices.”
Dr Richard Roberts, Head of the Vaccine Preventable Disease Programme at Public Health Wales, said:
“Flu viruses are easily spread and can be very serious for older people and those with health conditions. Every year, hundreds of people are admitted to hospital or intensive care units with flu.
“Anyone who is recommended to have flu vaccination should make an appointment as soon as possible.
“Flu viruses change every year, so everyone is at risk of flu. Flu vaccine protect three to six out of every 10 people vaccinated. This is why it’s so important to have the flu vaccine every year – to ensure you have the best protection possible.”
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 please 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.’