Flu is a highly contagious virus, which anyone can catch, and takes hold very quickly.
This year it’s even more important to get the flu vaccine to protect yourself, others and to help the NHS avoid the pressure that a spike in seasonal flu could bring, in addition to Covid-19 and a large rise in Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infections predicted in children.
Some groups are more susceptible to flu and its effects, so it is particularly important that they are vaccinated. These groups – who can have the vaccine free – are:
If you’re in an eligible group for the Covid-19 booster vaccination, you may be able to have it at the same time as the flu vaccination at your GP practice.
Dr Nick Rogers, Chair of Kernow Local Medical Committee, which represents general practice in the county, said: “The vaccination is our first line of defence against flu, which is unpleasant at best and a potential killer at worst. Flu can exacerbate existing medical conditions, lead to serious complications such as bronchitis and pneumonia, and be deadly for older and more vulnerable people.
“I recommend that people in the ‘at risk’ groups and their carers have the vaccine at their local GP practice before the virus starts to circulate in the community as it gets colder and winter approaches.
“Having the flu vaccine at your GP practice is the most convenient way to be immunised as we ensure continuity of care as we already know our patients, we have fully trained medical staff on site and have full registration with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) regulator. We can also provide you with other vaccinations you may be eligible for at the same time.
“The vaccine is free for eligible groups and quick to administer. People should have the flu vaccine annually, as it protects against different strains which are likely to be around in high numbers this year.”
Dr Rogers, also a GP partner at Falmouth Health Centre, added: “By having the flu vaccine, we can help to protect each other from the virus and reduce the spread.
“Having the flu vaccine also helps to ease pressure on local health services, by leading to fewer avoidable GP appointments, less people needing hospital care and fewer deaths from flu.”
Many GP surgeries will already be in contact with their most ‘at risk’ patients to arrange suitable appointments and some will also be running special flu clinics during evenings and weekends so people can fit having the vaccine around their everyday lives.
The vaccine is administered by either a GP or a trained member of the healthcare team at the surgery, who can also offer aftercare, where necessary. Young children are vaccinated via a nasal spray – everyone else receives a quick injection. Vaccinating children has a double benefit: as well as protecting them from flu, it also protects others, such as grandparents and siblings, as children are much more likely to infect others.
Expectant mums should have the vaccine whatever stage of pregnancy they are in. Those who are pregnant could become very ill if they get flu, which could also be bad for their baby. Having the vaccine can also protect their baby against flu after they’re born and during the early months of life. Your GP or midwife will advise you.
Flu symptoms come on very quickly and can include a fever, chills, cough, headache, aches and pains in the joints and muscles, and extreme tiredness.
People who are otherwise fit and healthy usually don’t need to see a doctor if they have flu-like symptoms and should self-care. At risk groups who display flu-like symptoms may wish to consider calling NHS 111 or their GP.
For more information on flu, visit the NHS website at: www.nhs.uk/conditions/flu