Flu - still time to get vaccinated

NHS England figures have shown a sharp increase in cases of flu in the last week of December. If you are eligible for a free flu jab from the NHS but still have not had it, you should ask at your GP practice. If you are not eligible for a free vaccination from the NHS, then flu jabs can be bought cheaply from most high street pharmacies.

As in previous years, young children can be offered the nasal spray vaccination and adults the traditional flu vaccine, offered for free to those in groups at particular risk of infection and complications from flu. The groups being offered the adult flu vaccine are:

• Pregnant women
• Those aged 65 or over
• Those aged under 65 with long-term conditions
• Carers

The nasal spray vaccination is offered to the following groups of children free of charge:

• children aged two and three on August 31 2017 – that is, children born between September 1 2013 and August 31 2015
• children in reception class and school years one, two, three and four
• children aged 2 to 17 with long-term health conditions

GP surgeries are also carrying out simple pulse checks, testing patients over the age of 65 for signs of irregular heartbeats also known as atrial fibrillation. People with atrial fibrillation are at a greater risk of developing heart problems or a stroke. Although flu vaccinations are available from other outlets it is only these GP surgeries who are offering the additional check for abnormal heart rates at the same time.

In addition to the atrial fibrillation and flu vaccination, all eligible patients are also able to receive pneumococcal vaccines protecting against the bacteria streptococcus pneumoniae. The vaccine can prevent some cases of pneumonia, meningitis, and sepsis. A pneumococcal infection can affect anyone. However, some people are at higher risk of serious illness and can be given the pneumococcal vaccination on the NHS. These include:

• babies
• adults aged 65 or over
• children and adults with certain long-term health conditions, such as a serious heart or kidney condition