Not enough people are getting the flu vaccination to protect them against this serious virus, Health leaders in the Black Country and West Birmingham have warned.
Winter flu can have serious complications in anybody who is vulnerable to respiratory illness, and if it’s caught at the same time as COVID-19, a person’s risk of serious complications, including death, doubles.
Yet this year, less than 40 per cent of people who are eligible for a free flu vaccine – meaning they are identified as having the highest risk of serious illness and death – have taken up the offer. Sally Roberts, chief nurse for the Black Country and West Birmingham CCGs, said:
“It’s extremely worrying that people are not coming forward to have their free flu vaccination, especially this winter, when catching this virus could be more dangerous than ever.
“We’re hearing that some people are trying to wait for the COVID-19 vaccination, but we need to be clear that flu can be just as dangerous if you’re in a vulnerable group, and flu kills thousands of people every year.
“The COVID vaccination may not be immediately available to most people, so it’s really important to get the flu jab now if you can. It’s safe as any vaccine can be, it’s free for those who need it most and it’s available right now, making it the best way to keep yourself and your loved ones safe this
Uptake across BCWB ranges from more than two thirds of over-65s getting protected, to less than six per cent of pregnant women who are not already in another at-risk group taking up the vaccine. Emma McCartney, Midwife and Professional Midwifery Advocate for The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust, added:
“Flu can have devastating complications for your baby if you catch it while pregnant, including low birth weight and an increased risk of birth defects. You’re more vulnerable to getting very ill at this time too, as your immune system is concentrating on keeping baby safe.
“The flu jab protects you and your baby. It’s safe to have at any time during your pregnancy and it’s available right through flu season – even if you find out you’re pregnant in January.”
While some may think that mixing less with others because of the pandemic has reduced their chance of catching flu, this is not true. Schools in particular are still open and are a hotspot for flu to spread and be taken home by children who may have a vulnerable person in their household.
That is why all pupils from Reception to Year 7 are offered the nasal spray flu vaccination in their schools, and why parents are urged to sign their child’s consent form this year,