It's that time of year - no not Christmas, it's nearly flu season!
People eligible for free vaccinations, especially those over the age of 65 in are being encouraged to take up the offer of a free flu vaccination as soon as possible.
The free vaccination is offered to those who are at increased risk from the effects of the flu. This includes people aged 65 and over, pregnant women, people staying in residential care homes, those in receipt of carers allowance and those with underlying health conditions (eg, cancer, Parkinson's, COPD etc) and there's a flue vaccine nasal spray for eligible children aged 2-17.
To date, despite a huge public awareness campaign, the take up of the vaccine nationally has been lower than expected. This may be because the variants of flu going around have been less obvious than in previous years.
You can check your eligibility for a free vaccine by contacting your GP or local pharmacy. Even if you are not eligible for free support, GPs and pharmacies offer the vaccine for a small fee.
The NHS estimates that if all those eligible for the free vaccine take up the offer of the vaccine, they could reduce the number of winter GP consultations by 30,000, hospitalisations by over 2,000 and prevent over 700 hospital deaths from flu in England. Letting the NHS focus on vital work such as dealing with accidents, carrying out operations and focusing on day to day healthcare problems.
It is worth keeping in mind that for many flu is not a life-ending illness but complications caused by flu such as pneumonia in people with weak immune systems, premature birth for pregnant women with flu or making an underlying illness worse are a factor worth considering.
So be sure to get your flu jab before Christmas!
For more information on the free vaccine, speak to your local school or GP, pharmacist or care-worker or visit www.nhs.uk/fluvaccine for more information.