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Health officials and council chiefs across Berkshire West encourage people to get their flu jab

Health officials and council chiefs across Berkshire West have launched a high profile campaign aimed at encouraging as many people as possible to have a flu jab. It comes as hospitals and GPs, gearing up for the next phase of Covid-19, are worried flu patients will put further strain on health and social care teams.

Flu kills around 11,000 people across the UK each year and puts many more in hospital. This year the biggest ever flu vaccination programme has been launched with the aim of reaching around 30 million people.

GP surgeries and pharmacies in Berkshire West have already vaccinated thousands of people who are in the high clinical risk groups including the over 65s and those with other health problems like diabetes or kidney disease.

The School Aged Immunisation Team has started clinics in local schools and will provide flu vaccinations to around 50,000 pupils across Berkshire West. This plays a vital role in protecting the population as children can spread the flu virus easily. Parents/Guardians of school aged children will be receiving consent forms and it is essential these are completed so youngsters can be protected.

Each year there is a new strain of the flu virus which means the vaccine changes annually so people who had a vaccination last year must still have one again now. People are also being reminded that the flu vaccination does not protect them from Covid -19 so they must still adhere to national messages on hand hygiene, social distancing and wearing face masks. And if they have symptoms like a fever, cough, sore throat and headaches and are unsure whether they are possibly flu or could be Covid, they should contact NHS 111 or their local GP for advice.

Dr Abid Iran, Chair of the Berkshire West Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Flu is an extremely contagious virus which can make people very ill, particularly those in the high risk groups. These patients have been prioritised to receive their flu vaccines and GP surgeries are in the process of contacting them and inviting them for vaccination. Staff running the flu vaccination clinics are ensuring social distancing is in place to help keep you safe.  

“Obviously this year’s flu campaign is being done against the backdrop of Covid-19 which makes it even more important for people to act responsibility and get a vaccination to protect not just themselves, but others too,” he added.

“Our health and social care systems have been under huge pressure over the last six months dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic and then the inevitable backlogs that have built up over this time, so it’s vital we all do everything we can to support the NHS by keeping ourselves protected and well,” said Dr Irfan.

Councillor Graeme Hoskin, Reading Borough Council’s Lead Member for Health said:

“It is more important than ever this year to get the flu vaccine. The vaccination is quick, free and available in most GP surgeries and local pharmacies for eligible groups.

“It is important not to put off getting the vaccination if you are eligible. If you receive an invitation from your GP to have the flu jab, please take it up.  Alternatively, anyone over 18 who is eligible for a free vaccination can get it at a local pharmacy. And if you’re a neighbour or friend of someone who is eligible or have a family member who is eligible for the vaccine please encourage and help them to get the flu vaccine this year.”

Councillor Howard Woollaston, Executive Portfolio holder for Public Health & Community Wellbeing, Leisure and Culture, West Berkshire, said: “With the added pressures of Covid-19 this winter it is more important than ever that eligible groups receive their flu jab. I myself have booked to get the flu jab and would like to encourage you to book yours too. The vaccination is free to all of those who are eligible and is available at most GP surgeries and pharmacies. If you’re eligible, don’t put it off. Speak to your local GP surgery/Pharmacy about booking an appointment and stay well this winter.”

Councillor Charles Margetts, Executive Member for Health, Wellbeing and Adult Services at Wokingham Borough Council, said: “We would encourage every resident who is entitled to a flu jab to contact their surgery and arrange to have this done as soon as possible. GP's are open for business and are keen that all residents who need flu jabs have access to them. The flu jab is quick and free and provides protection over the crucial winter months. This is a crucial way to protect your health over the winter.”

Note to Editors:

The groups eligible for a free flu vaccination are:

  • those aged 65 years and over
  • people who have long-term health conditions, such as: A heart problem, chest complaint or breathing difficulties, a kidney disease, lowered immunity due to treatment, diabetes, heart, liver disease, neurological conditions, those seriously overweight (BMI of 40 and above)
  • pregnant women
  • those in long-stay residential care homes
  • those who receive a carers allowance, or are the main carer for an older or disabled person who may be at risk if you get ill
  • members of a shielding household. Full list here.
  • pre-school children (aged 2 to 3 years on 31 August 2020)
  • primary school aged children and those in Year 7 (aged 4 to 11 on 31 August 2020)
  • Frontline health and social care workers

If you need medical help and are unsure what to do, call NHS 111 for help and advice. They are available 24 hours a day.