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Flu vaccination could save your life, says GP leader

12 September 2018

A GP leader in Devon is urging people to have a potentially life-saving free flu vaccination at their doctor’s surgery.

Flu is a highly contagious virus which anyone can catch, so people are encouraged to get protected and have the vaccination, which will soon be available in local GP practices.

Some groups – including pregnant women, young children aged two to four, carers, those with long-term health conditions like heart disease or breathing problems, and over 65s – are more susceptible to flu and its effects, so it is particularly important that they are vaccinated. They can have the vaccine free of charge.

This year’s national flu programme includes a newly-available and more effective vaccine for those aged 65 and over which has the potential to prevent deaths and significantly reduce the burden on the NHS.

Dr Bruce Hughes, Chair of Devon Local Medical Committee, which represents and supports GPs in the county, said: “People should not underestimate the effects of seasonal flu – it is unpleasant at best and a potential killer at worst.

“The vaccination is the first line of defence, so I’d strongly advise people to take action and have it at their local GP practice early, before flu starts to circulate in the community as it gets colder and winter takes hold.

“Flu viruses are constantly changing, so people need to be vaccinated every year to protect themselves, their families and the wider community. It is free for eligible groups, painless and quick – only taking a few minutes out of your day compared to the weeks you could be left feeling lousy and debilitated if you don’t have the vaccine and get flu.

“Having your flu jab at your GP practice is the safest way to have the vaccination administered as it offers a personalised service with access to patient medical records, fully trained medical staff on site and full registration with the Care Quality Commission regulator.”

Dr Hughes, a GP partner at Fremington Medical Centre, near Barnstaple, added: “Every year local GPs see many cases of people suffering from flu over the winter months that could have been prevented by having the vaccine.

“Studies have shown that the flu jab does work and will help prevent you getting the flu. It won’t stop all flu viruses and the level of protection may vary between people, so it’s not a 100% guarantee that you’ll be flu-free, but even if you do get flu after vaccination it’s likely to be milder and shorter-lived than it would otherwise have been. The flu vaccines used in the national programme also have a good safety record.”

People should speak to their GP practice about how to access the vaccine there. Some surgeries will be offering dedicated flu clinics.

The vaccine is administered by either a GP or practice nurse 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 about flu, and the vaccination, visit the NHS website at: