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Having a flu vaccination will help protect you, your family and your NHS

Health professionals across north east Essex and Suffolk are emphasising that it has never been more crucial for people in at-risk groups to have a flu vaccination.

It is safe to attend a flu clinic to have your vaccination. This year there will be a change to the way flu vaccinations are delivered as health teams need to factor in social distancing and infection prevention measures in order to continue to keep people safe. 

Some GP practices may be offering drive-through appointments at community centres or village halls, and practices will soon be contacting those eligible by letter, telephone or text to offer specific time appointments rather than the usual drop-in sessions. Please be patient – you don’t need to contact your GP practice as they’ll be in touch with you.

Many local community pharmacies are also offering bookable flu vaccination appointments for those who are eligible. So please contact your pharmacy for details. Pharmacies are working with GP colleagues to ensure the best possible access to the vaccine for all eligible groups and may be able to offer evening or weekend appointments.

While a flu vaccination will not protect you against Covid-19, it will reduce some of the very serious consequences of flu, which can lead to existing health issues getting worse or the development of conditions such as pneumonia or bronchitis, middle ear infections in children or brain damage in unborn babies.

The vaccine won't stop all flu viruses but if you do get flu after vaccination it is likely to be milder and shorter-lived than it otherwise might have been. For most children the flu vaccine is a quick and easy nasal spray. Children aged 2 and 3 receive the vaccine through their GP and those at school from Reception to Year 7 will receive it in school.

By having a flu vaccination you’ll not only be protecting your own health, but also helping prevent the spread of flu to others as well reducing the risk of hospital admission and protecting our precious NHS resources.

Patients in ‘at risk’ groups who are eligible to receive a free flu vaccination include:

• are 50 and over (including those who'll be 50 by 31 March 2021)
• women who are pregnant
• those aged six months to under 65 years in clinical risk groups including patients who suffer from a chronic illness, such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), kidney disease, hepatitis, Parkinsons, HIV and diabetes
• children aged two or three years old on 31 August 2020
• all primary school-aged children
• children with a health condition that puts them at a greater risk of flu
• those in long-stay residential care homes
• carers
• all frontline health and social care workers 

This year also includes:

• year 7 secondary school-aged children
• household members of those who may have been shielding

Dr Hasan Chowhan, a GP in Colchester and chairman of NHS North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “We’ve been planning hard to ensure we’re able to deliver an effective flu vaccination programme this year, working with our primary care and community pharmacy colleagues.

“Things will certainly be a bit different this year, since drop-in appointments are currently not practical. So instead, over the coming weeks, practices will be busy contacting their eligible patients to book them in for appointment. I urge people not to contact their surgery to try and book an appointment. Please wait until you are contacted. Don’t worry, we will be in touch.”

Dr Mark Shenton, a GP in Stowmarket and chairman of NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “I want to reassure people that it is safe to attend a flu vaccination appointment at the GP practice or community pharmacy, and I urge people not to be deterred from protecting their health this winter.

“The momentous events of the last seven months have certainly given us all cause for anxiety and concern, but if anything, these events have given everyone in an at-risk group even greater reason to have a flu vaccination.

“The flu vaccination will help protect your health and the health of your loved ones, so please don’t ignore the appointment invitation from your GP practice.”

Dr Christopher Browning, a GP in Long Melford and chairman of NHS West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “This year will see an extension of those people in the at-risk groups who are eligible for a free flu vaccination, including members of households where people were shielding and young people in Year 7 at school. 

“Additionally, it has been announced nationally that people aged 50 – 64 years will be eligible to receive a vaccination later this year. It’s important to remember though that people in this age category will not be contacted until at least November and this depends on availability of the vaccine.”

Junchao Jiang, Pharmacist from Parade Pharmacy in Sudbury, said: ‘’This flu season will be our biggest challenge yet so making a booking with your local community pharmacy is essential so we can deliver your flu jab in the safest method possible. Many community pharmacies are offering evenings and weekend bookings so please speak to your local team about what they can offer you so we can keep you well."

Cllr James Reeder, Suffolk County Council Cabinet Member for Public Health and Prevention said:
“If you intend to receive your flu vaccination from your GP please wait until you are contacted by the surgery. Once you are contacted it is incredibly important that you take up your appointment. It’s important not only for your health, but also for those you love as it reduces the chance of spreading the flu virus. 

“Flu can be deadly, with an estimated 10,000 people dying each year in England and Wales. The flu vaccine is our best protection against it. Although things will be different this year, please be assured that measures have been put in place to make sure it is safe for you and those you love to have your flu vaccination.”

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