More than 200,000 people across Sussex are currently at risk of developing serious complications if they catch flu this winter.
These people are all eligible for the seasonal flu vaccine but have not taken up the opportunity yet to have their free flu jab.
Every year the people most at risk of becoming very unwell if they catch flu are offered the free vaccination, and clinics have been available at GP practices across the county since September.
Those eligible are people over the age of 65, pregnant women, people with long term health conditions such as diabetes, asthma, heart disease and multiple sclerosis, and carers.
To date the number of people booking in for their flu jab is very low:
•43 per cent of people over the age of 65 are not protected;
•66 per cent of people with long term health conditions have not had their flu jab;
•73 per cent of pregnant women are still at risk from flu.
The message from the local NHS is clear – don’t underestimate the effects of seasonal flu, book into a clinic and have your free flu jab to protect you and those around you.
Julia Dutchman-Bailey, Chief Nurse at NHS Sussex, said: “People should not under-estimate the dangers of seasonal flu. Even a mild flu season can contribute to more than 2,000 deaths each winter across the country – the majority of which could be prevented if those people had been vaccinated against the seasonal flu virus.
“Flu is a highly infectious illness and people with who are already vulnerable can become seriously ill and may require hospital treatment if they catch flu.
“These are only early figures in terms of the uptake and we hope that they increase significantly over the next few weeks.
“We want to encourage everyone who is eligible to take this seriously and look after their own health and protect themselves and those around them.
“The jab is available for free at your GP surgery and I would strongly advise anyone who has not yet had the jab to contact their practice to make an appointment as soon as possible.”
From the latest figures the number of people over the age of 65 and those with long term conditions receiving the vaccination is lower that at the same point in the campaign last year.
However the number of pregnant women having a free flu jab is slightly higher. Pregnant women who catch flu are at increased risk of serious complications such as bronchitis and pneumonia.
That’s because the woman’s body and immune system is adapting to accommodate the growing baby and less able to fight off the flu virus.
Having the vaccine protects both you and your baby.”
There are additional ways people can protect themselves and those around them.
Good hand hygiene - the ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’ technique – reduces the spread of germs. This means carrying tissues, covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue, disposing of the tissue after one use, and cleaning hands as soon as possible with soap and water or an alcohol hand gel.
More information is available from http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Flu-jab/Pages/