Call for vulnerable to get free jab as flu season begins
The Public Health Agency (PHA) has urged those at risk of flu to take advantage of the seasonal vaccination programme.
The free vaccine changes each year to cover the strains which are likely to be prevalent over the course of the flu season, and the PHA has highlighted the importance of getting immunised annually.
In addition to people aged over-65, ‘at risk’ children and adults, and pregnant women, GPs across Northern Ireland will be inviting pre-school children aged two years and over to receive their free flu vaccine. Meanwhile, children in primaries one to seven will be offered the flu vaccine in school.
The PHA’s Dr Lucy Jessop said: “Everyone who receives an invitation to be vaccinated against flu should see it as a positive step in protecting their health and the health of others around them.
“The same unpleasant flu symptoms are experienced by both adults and children – fever, chills, aching muscles and joints, headache and extreme tiredness. These symptoms can last between two and seven days and for some can lead to serious illness and result in a stay in hospital.
“The flu vaccine does not give you the flu. It is offered as the best protection to people over 65 and ‘at risk’ groups because if they get flu, they are more likely to have severe illness and/or develop complications such as pneumonia, which can be life-threatening.
“Pregnant women are also more likely to have serious illness if they catch flu, which is why they will be invited by their GP at all stages of pregnancy, to help protect them and their unborn baby.”
Dr Jessop added: “Because the virus spreads easily, pre-school and primary school children will also be offered the vaccine, giving them the best protection and also helping to protect more vulnerable members of their families too. We would ask parents not to forget to sign and send back the consent form to school for your primary school children, and to take up the GP’s invitation for pre-school vaccination, or they may miss out.”