Sefton’s yearly flu vaccination campaign is underway. Free flu vaccination is being offered to all pregnant women, all children aged 2 to 4, residents of all ages with a health condition and everyone aged 65 and over.

Each winter, tens of thousands of people in England end up in hospital because of flu. Flu can be very serious. In the UK, about 600 people a year die from a complication of seasonal flu. This rises to around 13,000 during an epidemic.

Flu is a really unpleasant illness, which most people recover from themselves over about a week. Some people are at a much greater risk from the serious effects of flu, including pregnant women, the very young, people of any age with health conditions, such as asthma, heart disease, diabetes, weakened immune systems, and older people.
A very important message in the campaign this year is that pregnant women should protect themselves and their unborn baby by getting their free flu vaccination as soon as possible. Pregnancy naturally weakens the body’s immune system and as a result, increases the risk of a mother and unborn baby becoming seriously ill from flu.

Since last year, there has been a new nasal spray for all young children aged 2 and 3 years and for 2014, the spray is also being offered to all 2, 3 and 4 year olds to protect them from flu.

The flu virus is very unpredictable and, some years, flu causes more sickness than others because new strains emerge and spread. This is why it is really important for people eligible for a free flu vaccination to get it every year.

Dr Janet Atherton, Sefton Council’s Director of Public Health, said: “Flu can be very serious and should not be underestimated. I strongly encourage people who are eligible for a free flu vaccination to take up the offer to protect themselves.

“Pregnant women can safely have the flu vaccine at anytime in pregnancy to protect themselves and their unborn baby. The vaccine reduces the risk of complications of flu like premature birth and pneumonia and all pregnant women should take up the offer.”

Dr Clive Shaw, chair of NHS Southport and Formby CCG, said: “People with long term health conditions are at much greater risk of becoming seriously unwell from flu and should protect themselves with a free flu vaccine even if they feel healthy.

“Parents of children aged 2, 3 and 4 years old may not know that their children should have a free flu nasal spray so we want to spread this message. The spray is simple, quick and painless and available for 2, 3 and 4 year olds through the GP.”

Cllr Paul Cummins, Sefton Council’s Cabinet Member for Older People and Health said: “The flu vaccination campaign is a really important public health campaign to protect Sefton residents who are at greater risk of serious effects from flu.

“We want to make sure that everyone who is eligible for a free flu vaccine is aware that they need it and know how to get it. It is free because you need it. I urge anyone at risk of flu to speak to their GP about protecting themselves.”

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