A Stoke Newington health centre is warning that poor early uptake of the seasonal flu vaccine could put lives at risk.
The recent mild weather has meant there have not been many flu cases to date, but there are warnings that there could be a surge in cases, similar to recent winters, leaving those who should have been vaccinated at greater risk.
Each winter, between October and January, the free flu jab is offered to people in ‘at risk’ groups, which includes everyone aged 65 and over, children aged two, three or four years on 1 September 2014, adults and children under 65 with certain medical conditions and all pregnant women.
Samuel Koranteng-Asare, service manager at Tollgate Lodge Healthcare Centre in Stamford Hill, which is run on behalf of the local NHS by Care UK, said: “We have been offering our eligible registered patients the flu-jab since 1 October and the early uptake is noticeably down on last year. For most people flu is just a nasty experience, but for some it can lead to more serious illnesses resulting in a spell in hospital and even death.
“The flu vaccine is strictly regulated to ensure it is very safe and effective. Most side-effects are minor compared to the risk of catching flu and developing serious illness. I would urge our registered patients who are eligible for the free flu-jab to book an appointment with the surgery now.”
Whilst the best way to protect against flu is to get vaccinated, people should also protect themselves and others by practicing good basic hygiene. This includes frequent hand washing with soap and warm water and following the ‘Catch It, Bin It, Kill It’ rules, which means covering the nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, carefully disposing of the tissue after one use, and cleaning hands as soon as possible.
People who can get the flu jab free of charge on the NHS include:
- anyone aged 65 or over
- children aged two, three or four years on 1 September 2014
- pregnant women (in any stage of pregnancy)
- people with a long-term condition including diabetes, asthma, liver disease, kidney disease or heart or chest problems
- people undergoing medical treatment who may have a compromised immune system
- people with a neurological condition such as multiple sclerosis (MS) or cerebral palsy
- people living in a residential or nursing home
- a main carer for an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if they fall ill.
Tollgate Lodge Healthcare Centre is open for registered patients Monday to Friday 8am-6.30pm, Saturday 10am-2pm and Sunday 10am-6pm. Further information about registering as a patient can be obtained on 020 7689 3140.