Why it’s worth getting the flu jab this winter

People across Tayside are being urged to get the flu jab this winter, to reduce their risk of suffering from the potentially serious complications of the virus.

Catching flu doesn’t just mean a couple of days in bed – it is a serious illness. If you’re pregnant, over 65 years of age or have an existing long-term health condition such as diabetes, asthma or other heart and lung conditions, it can lead to serious complications such as pneumonia or bronchitis. In extreme cases it could result in hospitalisation or even death.

But you can protect yourself and your loved ones from flu this winter. The flu vaccine is free and available from your GP or health centre. To be protected, get your jab early before flu viruses are circulating.

The flu jab is being offered to: everyone aged 65 and over; pregnant women; those in long-stay residential care homes and unpaid carers and young carers.

It is also offered to those with chronic respiratory disease; chronic heart disease; chronic kidney disease; chronic liver disease; chronic neurological disease; diabetes and immunosuppression.

An estimated 15,392 people aged under 65 in the NHS Tayside area who are entitled to get the flu jab didn’t take up the offer last year.

Over 79,182 people aged over 65 in the area are also entitled to the flu jab. Local health professionals are urging everyone in ‘at risk’ groups, to come forward and receive their annual flu jab as soon as possible.

NHS Tayside Director of Public Health Dr Drew Walker, said: “Flu should be taken seriously – it’s not the same as the common cold and the virus can have an immediate and severe effect. If you are in one of the at-risk groups, then it’s important to protect yourself from flu as it could hit you harder and last much longer. In severe cases you could even end up in hospital.

“If you’re in one of the at-risk groups and haven’t been contacted yet then you should make an appointment with your GP to get the free vaccination as soon as you can. It only takes a few minutes to be vaccinated but it will give you protection against flu for around a year. The jab is quick, easy and safe so don’t take the chance of getting ill this winter.”

The vaccine takes around ten days to work and will protect you for around a year. Even if you received the jab last year, it’s important that you still come forward for it again this year. The virus constantly changes and your immunity reduces over time so last year’s jab won’t necessarily protect you from this year’s flu viruses.

Many local people avoid taking up the offer of the flu jab for fear that it contains live viruses and will make them sick. This is a complete myth! Don’t worry as the vaccine can’t give you flu but it can stop you catching it. However, the vaccine works by helping your body to identify and fight the virus so if you do feel achy for a day or so after getting the jab, this can be a good sign that the vaccination is working and that your immune system is responding.

If you have a weak immune system and don’t receive the flu jab then you could be putting your health at serious risk. The jab will protect you against three strains of this year’s flu so it’s the safest and most effective way of safe guarding yourself from the virus this winter.

So don’t delay, contact your GP as early as possible to arrange your free jab.

For further information on the flu campaign, log on to www.immunisationscotland.org.uk. If you are unsure if you are eligible for the jab, contact NHS Inform on 0800 22 44 88.