Health chiefs urge ‘at risk’ to get flu jab

HEALTH chiefs in Bedfordshire are urging people in ‘at risk’ groups to get the flu jab this year.

GP practices across the county are now running seasonal flu vaccine clinics and patients are being advised to book an appointment now so that they are protected before flu starts to circulate.

Although the majority of older people in Bedfordshire and Luton get their flu vaccine each year, the NHS is particularly warning people under 65, who have certain medical conditions, not to underestimate flu.

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Figures show that 70 per cent of people who died from flu last year in the UK were aged 15 to 64 years, but in Bedfordshire and Luton less than half of under 65s, who are advised to get the seasonal flu jab, actually took it up last year.

Everyone aged 65 and over is routinely offered the jab, as are younger people with medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, kidney and liver disease.

Pregnant women, at any stage of pregnancy, are also being advised to get vaccinated, as they are more prone to complications from flu that can cause serious illness for both mother and baby. Carers and those living in residential or nursing homes are also eligible for the free vaccine.

Gerry Taylor, NHS Luton Director of Public Health, said: “Flu is not the same as getting a cold. Its symptoms are more severe, last longer and for some it can lead to more serious illnesses, resulting in a spell in hospital and sadly even death.

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“But flu is preventable and we are urging all Bedfordshire and Luton residents in ‘at risk’ groups to book an appointment with their GP practice to have their free jab.

“The flu vaccine has been thoroughly tested and so is very safe and effective. The vaccines cannot cause flu as they do not contain the live virus, so any side-effects are rare and minor compared to the risks associated with flu.”