The annual campaign to encourage people in eligible groups across Wales to have a free vaccination to protect themselves from influenza (flu) is being launched today (Monday 2nd October).
The Beat Flu campaign, led by Public Health Wales and supported by Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, encourages those who need it most to get protection each year against influenza, a potentially dangerous disease.
Included in the eligible groups are pregnant women, people with certain long term health conditions such as diabetes, heart, kidney and lung disease, everyone aged 65 and over, carers and frontline health and social care workers.
Children aged between two to eight years are also eligible as the vaccine programme for children is being extended again this year. The vaccine for adults is a small injection, but for children it is a simple nasal spray. Children aged between two and three years can receive the nasal vaccine at their GP surgery while those in reception class and school years 1, 2, 3 and 4 can get it at school.
Dr Sharon Hopkins, Director of Public Health for Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, is urging all those who are eligible to have the jab.
Dr Hopkins said: “Cardiff and Vale University Health Board is supporting this year’s Beat Flu Campaign and we strongly encourage anyone who is eligible for the vaccine to take advantage.
“The flu virus spreads easily and can be a serious illness. If you have any questions about getting vaccinated for free, speak to your GP, Practice Nurse or a participating pharmacy.
“We are worried that many at-risk people under 65 did not protect themselves last year. Many of the people in this group may not be aware that they are eligible for a free jab.
“Because the virus changes each year it is important people get vaccinated each season.”
Public Health Minister, Rebecca Evans AM, who will be launching the campaign today, reiterated it is vital that those most at risk take advantage of the free vaccine: “Influenza can be a life-threatening illness for people who are at risk due to their age, an underlying health problem, or because they are pregnant. Sadly, influenza kills people in Wales every year.
“Influenza spreads very easily. Extending the programme to more children this year will help protect them from catching flu, and will also prevent them spreading it to others in the community who may be very vulnerable. Last year’s children’s vaccine was very effective and it’s good to know that so many young people were protected.
“People can be seriously ill with influenza, and a flu vaccination is the best way to protect against it, so make sure you get protected soon, for your own and other people’s sake.”
The influenza viruses that circulate and cause illness each winter change and therefore each year the flu vaccine is changed to try and match the circulating strains, in order to give best protection.
While most NHS flu vaccines are given in GP surgeries, vaccination is also available for adults in many community pharmacies across Wales.
Influenza is a respiratory illness caused by a virus that affects the lungs and airways. Symptoms generally come on suddenly, and can include fever, chills, headache, cough, body aches and fatigue.
The influenza virus is spread via droplets which are sprayed into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Direct contact with contaminated hands or surfaces can also spread infection. It can spread rapidly, especially in closed communities such as hospitals, residential homes and schools.