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Public Health Wales urges eligible people to have free flu vaccine

Public Health Wales is urging all eligible people in Wales to have their free flu vaccine as NHS Wales begins its largest ever national flu vaccine programme.

Flu (also known as influenza) can be serious, particularly for those who are older or have a health condition and are more vulnerable to complications as a result of the flu. Having a flu vaccine every year is one of the most effective ways to protect against flu.

Those eligible for a free NHS flu vaccine include people with long term health conditions, people aged 65 and over, pregnant women, children aged two to ten years old, carers, domiciliary carers and care home staff with regular client contact as well as care home residents.

It is also free for Community First responders and volunteers providing planned first aid. Annual flu vaccine is strongly recommended for all frontline health and social care workers to protect themselves and those they care for.

Children aged two and three (on 31 August 2020) and all primary school children (reception to year six) will be offered the vaccine in nasal spray form. Children from two years old that have a long-term health condition can also receive a free flu nasal spray.

For this season’s flu programme, new groups have been added to the eligible list, making it the largest ever national flu programme.

The new eligible groups include household contacts on the NHS shielded list and people with a learning disability.

In addition, people aged 50 and over may also be offered a free NHS flu vaccine later in a phased approach later in the season.

To promote the vaccine, Public Health Wales has launched a campaign that features a new TV and radio advert as well social media and digital content. The campaign will be live from 21 September, with the TV advert first airing on 5October.

Research conducted by YouGov, on behalf of Public Health Wales, revealed that of those people who answered they would be eligible for a free flu vaccine 68 per cent said that they would be ‘very likely’ to have the vaccine this year.

At the same time, the data also revealed that 50 per cent of respondents that answered and said they would be eligible believe having a flu vaccine is ‘much more important’ this year as a result of Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Casey Keegans, a mental health ward manager at Hafan Y Coed in Llandough Hospital and a current ‘Flu Champion’, said:

“It has always been important to have your flu vaccine, but particularly this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“For us, we definitely had an increase in admissions and people requiring mental health support as a result of the stress from the pandemic. That’s why we’re lucky we have a vaccine to help protect us against flu, which may be circulating at the same time as COVID-19 this winter.

“I know getting vaccinated can be anxiety provoking, but there are plenty of health professionals such as nurses, pharmacists and GP’s who will be able to reassure and support you.

“By having the flu vaccine, we’re not only protecting ourselves, but we’re also protecting those around us, especially individuals with pre-existing health conditions.”

Minister for Health and Social Services, Vaughan Gething, said:

“This year we are extending the flu vaccine to more people than ever before. Flu spreads very easily and anyone can catch it. However, it is especially dangerous to people that are more vulnerable, such as those with long term health conditions and pregnant women.

“This winter, with the continued presence of Covid-19 we want to ensure more people receive the flu vaccine, this is why we have increased the eligible groups.

“I understand that some people may be concerned about going to their community pharmacy or GP surgery to get their vaccine because of COVID-19, but surgeries and pharmacies will be following the latest safety practices.

“I strongly urge those who are eligible to have their vaccine as soon as possible to help protect themselves, their families and their community.”

Dr Richard Roberts, Head of the Vaccine Preventable Disease Programme at Public Health Wales, said:

“Flu viruses are easily spread and can be very serious for older people and those with health conditions. Every year, hundreds of people are admitted to hospital or intensive care units with flu.

“Anyone who is recommended to have flu vaccination should make an appointment as soon as possible.

“Flu viruses change every year, so everyone is at risk of flu. Flu vaccine protect three to six out of every 10 people vaccinated. This is why it’s so important to have the flu vaccine every year – to ensure you have the best protection possible.”

Anyone can catch flu. Symptoms are likely to include; a fever, chills, tiredness and weakness, a headache, general aches and pains and a dry, chesty cough. In up to half of cases people can have flu without even realising it – and they can still spread it to others.

Some COVID-19 symptoms are similar to flu so check the latest advice and follow the current COVID-19 guidelines.