Thousands urged to protect their health before deadly flu virus hits

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Over 70,000 patients in Sandwell and West Birmingham put their health at risk last winter by not having their flu jab,

NHS figures have revealed. With levels of flu in Australia, often a good predictor for flu in England, at their highest for years, NHS Sandwell and West Birmingham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is calling on all eligible patients to get vaccinated before the flu virus starts circulating.

Statistics from Public Health England* reveal that over 24,000 adults who are over 65, over 40,000 adults under 65 who are at risk and over 5,000 pregnant women in Sandwell and West Birmingham all failed to have their free flu vaccination during the period from 1 September 2018 to 28 February 2019.             

Pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to severe complications of flu. During the period 2009 to 2012, one in eleven maternal deaths was due to influenza infection**. The flu vaccine can be a lifesaver because flu is a highly contagious disease which for some people can lead to serious and sometimes life-threatening consequences.

Studies have proven the vaccine will help prevent flu in patients and reduce the length and strength of flu if caught. Flu viruses change every year so people need to update their vaccination each year to match the new virus.

Dr Ian Sykes, Chair of NHS Sandwell and West Birmingham CCG, said:

“This particularly nasty strain of flu in Australia shows just how severe flu can be and it’s vital that all those who are eligible benefit from this potentially life-saving vaccination. Last year thousands of people in Sandwell and West Birmingham took unnecessary risks with their lives by not taking the steps to protect themselves. Flu is a serious, sometimes even life-threatening illness, which people can catch easily when it is circulating.

“Some people are more at risk from flu and need the vaccine because they are not able to fight off flu as easily as others.  For these people, flu can often result in more serious complications which require hospital treatment.  It can even be fatal in some cases. So, it’s important that everyone who is eligible for the flu vaccine contacts their local GP practice or pharmacy so they can be protected as soon as possible.

“Many people worry that the vaccine can give them the flu, but this isn’t possible as there is no live influenza virus in the vaccine. There is no need for anyone to be concerned about giving the vaccine to their children, or if they are pregnant, the vaccine affecting their baby.”

The injected flu vaccine is offered free of charge on the NHS to people who are at risk. This is to help protect them against catching flu and developing serious complications.

People should have the flu vaccine if they are:

  • 65 years old or over  
  • pregnant
  • have certain medical conditions
  • are living in a long-stay residential care home or other long-stay care facility
  • receive a carer's allowance, or are the main carer for an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if taken ill.