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People in Lancashire and South Cumbria are being urged to get their flu vaccine as soon as they are offered it to boost their immunity this winter

People in Lancashire and South Cumbria are being urged to get their flu vaccine as soon as they are offered it to boost their immunity this winter.

Each year, GPs in the region call on those who are eligible to get their jab to help protect themselves, their family and friends from the flu virus. In a year like no other, and the first year that flu will co-circulate alongside COVID-19, vaccinating against flu is more important than ever.

Dr Rahul Keith, a local GP, said: “Flu can be debilitating for anyone, and for those in an ‘at risk’ category it can have a serious impact. If you are very young, old, or living with a condition, you could be adversely affected so we are asking everyone that is eligible for the free flu jab to ensure they get it as soon as it is offered. It is a simple procedure that could ultimately save lives.

"The public’s uptake of the COVID-19 vaccine this year has been very encouraging, but flu is, of course, a completely different virus so getting this vaccination is just as important in boosting your immunity in the winter months.”

The NHS is gearing up to deliver a COVID-19 Booster campaign, but it is vital that people don’t delay in getting their usual protection against the flu virus, as encouraged every year.

Flu is an extremely contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza A or B viruses that can cause mild illness in most people, but some are more likely to develop potentially serious complications, such as bronchitis and pneumonia.

Many GP surgeries will already be in contact with many of their most ‘at risk’ patients to arrange suitable appointments and some surgeries will also be running special flu clinics to offer more opportunities and will share any dates with patients accordingly. Vaccines can also be administered by your local pharmacist, so those eligible can make enquiries with them about available appointments.

Groups eligible for a free NHS flu jab, in the 2021 to 2022 season include:

• children aged 2 to 15 (but not 16 years or older) on 31 August 2021 – who will be offered a nasal spray
• those aged 6 months to under 50 years in clinical risk groups
• pregnant women
• those aged 50 years and over
• those in long-stay residential care homes
• carers
• close contacts of immunocompromised individuals
• frontline health and social care staff employed by:

  • a registered residential care or nursing home
  • registered domiciliary care provider
  • a voluntary managed hospice provider

The NHS is now heading towards a highly unpredictable winter. With measures in place such as mask wearing and social distancing, flu activity levels were extremely low last year and as a result, a lower level of population immunity against flu is expected this winter.

Research has also shown that you’re more likely to be seriously ill if you get flu and COVID-19 at the same time.

Dr Keith added: “Getting the vaccine takes just a couple of minutes and it’s the best defence we have against the spread of flu. It provides protection against strains of flu that are predicted to circulate each year, as these strains may be different from previous years - so if you have never had flu or a flu jab before it doesn’t mean you won’t get it this year.

“The level of protection may vary from person to person, but if you do get flu after vaccination it is likely to be milder and shorter-lived than it otherwise might have been.

“There is obviously a great deal of pressure on health and care systems at the moment so people getting their flu jab is another important step people can take to help us to help you through the busy winter season.”

Get your free flu jab if you are eligible and make sure you have had your covid jabs 1 and 2 and a booster if you are called.

For more information on flu, visit the NHS website at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/flu