Doctors’ orders - protect yourself from flu

Flu awareness tour
Flu awareness tour

Thousands of Scots under the age of 65 in ‘at risk’ groups and entitled to the flu jab didn’t take up the offer last year - here in the Borders 38 per cent declined the offer.

Now that we’ve reached that time of year again when flu jabs are being given health professionals are urging those who are eligible to take up the opportunity to protect themselves against the misery of flu and the potential medical complications it could trigger, just as 78 per cent of the region’s over 65s did last year.

Dr Tim Patterson, public health consultant for NHS Borders, said: “Flu is a serious illness and the vaccination is the most effective protection from it. If you are in one of the at-risk groups, then the impact of flu can be even more serious, with symptoms hitting you harder and lasting longer. You could end up in hospital, or contract pneumonia or bronchitis.

“I strongly urge anyone who is in one of the at-risk groups to make sure they go to their GP to get the free jab. It only takes a few minutes to be vaccinated but will give you protection against the flu for around a year.”

This year’s flu vaccine protects against three types of flu including the swine flu strain, and takes about 10 days for you to be protected. It doesn’t contain live viruses, so it can’t give you the flu. However, the vaccine works by helping your body to identify and fight the virus so if you do feel achy for a day or so after getting the jab, this can be a good sign that the vaccination is working and that your immune system is responding.

GP practices across the Borders are currently carrying out their own vaccination programmes and will contact anyone whose medical condition puts them in an ‘at risk’ group.

People considered to be ‘at risk’ are those of all ages with long-term illnesses, including: chronic respiratory disease (asthma needing regular inhaled or oral steroids); chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; chronic heart conditions; diabetes; chronic kidney or liver disease; chronic neurological conditions (stroke or multiple sclerosis); lowered immunity due to disease or treatment (chemotherapy or radiotherapy treatment for cancer or long-term steroid use); and any other serious medical condition.

All pregnant women at any stage of pregnancy are eligible for vaccination and NHS Boards are also encouraged to aim to vaccinate around 50 per cent of front line staff – giving priority to staff working in areas where patients might be at particularly high risk (paediatric, maternity, care of elderly, haematology, ITUs).

If you are in an at risk group and have not made arrangements to get the vaccine by mid-November, contact your GP surgery for an appointment.

Unsure about whether you are eligible for the vaccine? Then, contact NHS Inform on 0800 22 44 88 or speak to your GP practice nurse of local pharmacist.