At risk groups urged to have flu jab

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Public health bosses in Birmingham have warned that many people who are in at-risk groups are neglecting to have the flu jab this year.

Figures for 2012 show that 47.3 per cent of over-65s across Birmingham have so far had the jab this year, compared to 55.2 per cent last year.

The uptake for people aged six months to 64 years with underlying medical conditions (asthma, diabetes, heart problems etc) is 29.5 per cent, compared to 32.6 per cent last year.

Now Birmingham City Council Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, Cllr Steve Bedser, and the city’s new Director of Public Health, Dr Adrian Phillips, are urging at risk groups to have the flu jab.

The jab is available now from GP surgeries and is free on the NHS to eligible people (see list below) to keep them safe during winter.

With carers, health and social care staff also encouraged to get a jab to protect themselves and those around them, Birmingham City Council has this year offered all frontline social care staff a free jab.

Cllr Bedser, who was given his flu jab at The Kenrick Centre in Harborne on Wednesday (7 November), said: “The simple message for anyone at risk in Birmingham is that it’s not too late to have the flu jab this winter.

“Flu can increase the risk of developing more serious illnesses such as bronchitis and pneumonia, and can make existing conditions much worse. Flu can knock you off your feet and make it hard to look after the kids or go to work. In the most serious cases, seasonal flu might land you in hospital – it can even be a killer.

“If you're in any of the 'at risk' groups, the flu jab is completely free and is a safe way of protecting you and your family in a matter of minutes.”

The best time to be vaccinated is at the start of the flu season from October to early November, so it's good to get in early and get flu safe in time for the winter.

Simply contact your GP to arrange a convenient appointment and get your jab. It's quick, safe and free for those most at risk from the virus.

Public health officials in Birmingham are keen to dispel many of the myths surrounding the flu jab.

The facts

  • The flu jab can't give you flu
  • The flu jab is perfectly safe
  • The flu virus changes, so you need a flu jab every year If you're pregnant, the flu jab doesn't harm your unborn baby. In fact it can protect your baby from flu for the first few months of life
  • The flu jab also protects against swine flu
  • The flu jab isn't just for older people - pregnant women, those with health conditions, carers, and those with weakened immunity should all get the jab
  • The flu jab protects people of all ages
  • Flu isn't just a cold, it can be a really serious illness

Dr Phillips added: “There are lots of myths surrounding the flu jab but they are exactly that: myths. In particular, we know pregnant women have concerns about the effect the flu vaccine could have on their unborn child, as well as the threat of catching the flu themselves.

“But I want to reassure people that the seasonal flu vaccine is safe, and has been given routinely to pregnant women in the US and in other European countries for many years.

“Research shows that the jab is safe for mother and baby and can be given at any stage of pregnancy. The earlier you have the vaccine the better as it means you will be protected for the whole winter. Remember that flu can lay you low for a couple of weeks and make it really difficult to look after your children or go to work - when it's so easy to avoid with a quick jab it's the last thing you need when you're pregnant.”

ENDS

For more information contact Geoff Coleman on 0121 303 3501

Notes to editors

Flu vaccinations are currently offered free of charge to the following 'at risk' groups:

  • People aged 65 years or over (including those becoming age 65 years by 31 March 2013).
  • All pregnant women (including those women who become pregnant during the flu season).
  • People with serious medical conditions such as:
    • chronic (long-term) respiratory disease, such as
      severe asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or bronchitis
    • chronic heart disease, such as heart failure
    • chronic kidney disease at stage 3, 4 or 5
    • chronic liver disease
    • chronic neurological disease, such as Parkinson’s disease or motor neurone disease
    • diabetes
    • a weakened immune system due to disease (such as HIV/AIDS) or treatment (such as cancer treatment)
  • People living in long stay residential care homes or other long-stay care facilities where rapid spread is likely to follow introduction of infection and cause high morbidity and mortality. This does not include, for instance, prisons, young offender institutions, or university halls of residence
  • People who are in receipt of a carer's allowance, or those who are the main carer of an older or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if the carer falls ill

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