Cumbernauld citizens eligible for the free flu vaccine are being urged to take up the offer to protect themselves as NHS Lanarkshire begins its largest ever flu immunisation programme during October.
This year the vaccine is being offered to more people than ever to address the additional risk posed by coronavirus (COVID-19). In order to vaccinate more people safely, where people go to get their vaccine may be different from previous years and may not be at a GP surgery.
More than 300,000 people across Lanarkshire are eligible for the flu vaccine, and appointments will be issued in the next seven weeks for priority patients. These include children aged 2-5 years (not yet in school), everyone aged under 65 at risk, everyone aged 65 and over, and people who have been shielding and members of their households.
New walk-in or drive-through centres have been set up in many areas within local facilities, such as town halls and community hubs, along with outreach programmes for the sole purpose of delivering the free flu jab. They will provide an alternative to GP surgeries for many adults who are eligible and have received, or will receive, a letter in the coming weeks, to book a vaccination appointment.
GP practices will continue to play an important role, however, particularly for the most vulnerable members of the community. As in previous years, local health teams will be deployed to primary schools in Cumbernauld to offer the vaccination to all primary school aged children.
For those living in and working in care homes, along with those receiving care at home and the elderly, NHS Lanarkshire is making arrangements for vaccinations to take place in the home. From December, those aged 55 to 64 who would not usually be eligible will also be offered the flu vaccine. Dr Nicola Steedman, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for Scotland, commented:
“This year, more than ever, it is important that you receive your flu vaccine if you are eligible.
“The way the flu vaccine is administered will be a little different for many people given COVID-19 restrictions, and it may not be at a GP practice for some.
“Some people may be worried about the risks of going out to get their vaccination, but getting your flu vaccine is one of the most important reasons for leaving your home and strict infection prevention and control measures will be in place to protect you.
“The vaccine is safe and it’s the best way to help protect you from flu this winter. It only takes a few minutes to be vaccinated, and it helps to provide protection from flu for around a year.
“Flu is serious and with COVID-19 still circulating in the community there is increased risk to life if you are ill with both viruses simultaneously, therefore we all need to play our part to keep ourselves as healthy as possible over the winter months. Flu vaccination is a big part of that.”
Those aged over 65 and those who have an underlying health condition will receive a letter with details of how to make an appointment for their flu vaccination in due course. These letters will not all be sent out at the same time and instead will be staggered to ensure those most at clinical risk are prioritised.
In response to heightened enquiries about the flu jab this year, Dr Mark Russell, Associate Medical Director for Health and Social Care North Lanarkshire, remarked:
“We understand that people are anxious and want to know when they will receive their flu vaccination. We would like to reassure the public that everyone who is eligible will receive an appointment for their vaccination.
“We use the details from GP practice lists to identify who is eligible. If you have previously received the vaccine from your GP, then you will be on the list to receive it this year.
“We are appealing for your patience and understanding as we are vaccinating more people than usual in a relatively short period of time.
“The programme will take longer than other years to deliver and we would like to reassure you that staff are working hard to make sure everyone gets their vaccination as soon as possible.”
If you are not sure if you are eligible for the flu vaccination, visit www.nhsinform.scot/flu and use the ‘How to get the flu vaccine in your area’ guide. Pregnant women and household members of those shielding are invited to telephone 0800 22 44 88 get details of how to make their appointment.
THE FLU VACCINE: A KEY INFORMATION GUIDE
What is Flu?
Flu (influenza) is a common infectious viral illness spread by coughs and sneezes. It can be very unpleasant, but you’ll usually begin to feel better within about a week. You can catch flu all year round, but it’s especially common in winter, which is why it’s also known as seasonal flu.
Flu isn’t the same as the common cold. Flu is caused by a different group of viruses and the symptoms tend to start more suddenly, be more severe and last longer. Some of the main symptoms of flu include a high temperature (fever) of 38C (100.4F) or above, tiredness and weakness, a headache, general aches and pains, and a dry, chesty cough.
Cold-like symptoms, such as a blocked or runny nose, sneezing, and a sore throat can also be caused by flu, but they tend to be less severe than the other symptoms you have. Flu can make you feel so exhausted and unwell that you have to stay in bed and rest until you feel better.
The dangers of flu are increased this year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Flu is a different virus to COVID-19, but it can sometimes be difficult to differentiate between the two if you are feeling unwell.
The main symptoms of COVID-19 are a cough, fever, shortness of breath and a loss or change in sense of taste and smell. There is currently no vaccination available for COVID-19, although medical experts around the world are working hard to develop one.
What is the Flu Vaccine?
The flu vaccine stimulates your body’s immune system to make antibodies to attack the flu virus. Antibodies are proteins that recognise and fight off germs, such as viruses, that have invaded your blood.
The flu vaccine is usually given through a jab to the upper arm. Vaccination only takes a minute or two, and for most people only causes mild discomfort for the few seconds that the needle enters the arm.
How Effective is the Flu Vaccine?
The vaccine takes around 10 days to work and should help protect you from flu for around a year. You have to get immunised every year because flu viruses change constantly and your immunity reduces over time.
The flu vaccine can’t give you flu, but it can stop you catching it. Flu vaccines help protect against the main types of flu viruses, although there’s still a chance you might get flu. If you do get flu after vaccination, it’s likely to be milder and not last as long.
Having the flu vaccine will also stop you spreading flu to other people who may be more at risk of serious problems from flu.
Which Vaccines Are Used and How Safe Are They?
Three types of inoculation are currently used to vaccinate against flu in Scotland. These are cell-based Quadrivalent Inactivated Vaccine (QIVc) Flucelvax Tetra (Seqirus), egg-based Quadrivalent Inactivated Vaccine (QIVe) Sanofi Pasteur) and Adjuvanted Trivalent Inactivated Vaccine (aTIV) (Seqirus).
The adjuvanted Trivalent Inactivated Vaccine (aTIV) contains a substance known as an adjuvant, which helps to stimulate the immune system and create a better response.
This vaccine has been widely used in many other countries and has been shown to offer better and longer lasting protection in older people than flu vaccines without an adjuvant. It’s being offered this year to people aged 65 or over.
All vaccines used are tested for safety and effectiveness before they’re allowed to be used. Once they’re in use, the safety of vaccines continues to be monitored by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
Sometimes the flu vaccine can cause side effects, but they are usually mild and only last for a day or so. They can include a slightly raised temperature, muscle aches and sore arm where the needle went in.
It’s very rare for anyone to have a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to the flu vaccine. If this does happen, it usually happens within minutes, and the person who administers the vaccine will be trained to deal with allergic reactions and offer immediate treatment.
Who Should Not Have the Flu Vaccine?
Most adults can have the flu vaccine, but you should avoid it if you have had a serious allergic reaction to a flu vaccine in the past.
You may be at risk of an allergic reaction to the flu vaccine injection if you have an egg allergy. This is because some flu vaccines are made using eggs.
It’s important to let the person carrying out the vaccine know if you have an allergy to eggs. For those affected, there are egg-free and low-egg brands of vaccine which can be used.
NHS Lanarkshire anticipates that everyone eligible will receive their flu vaccination during October-November 2020, with targeted non-eligible groups to be offered the jab in December 2020.