Vac­cine Up­date

The People's Friend - - Health - Our Health Writer, Colleen Shan­non, re­ports on jabs against flu and other nasty germs.

WIN­TER is upon us, and along with the shorter, colder days comes a higher risk of flu and other in­fec­tions that are un­pleas­ant at best and dan­ger­ous at their worst.

Stay­ing warm, fol­low­ing good hy­giene rules and eat­ing a nu­tri­tious diet are a few sim­ple ways to boost your de­fences against ill­ness.

Some peo­ple need ex­tra pro­tec­tion, and they also qual­ify for free im­mu­ni­sa­tions on the NHS. Right now, the an­nual NHS flu im­mu­ni­sa­tion cam­paign is in full swing, and it is hoped that new for­mu­la­tions this year will make the vac­cine more ef­fec­tive.

You may qual­ify for jabs against other se­ri­ous in­fec­tions, too, and it’s a good time to find out what’s on of­fer.

I asked Dr Mary Ram­say, Head of Im­mu­ni­sa­tions at Pub­lic Health Eng­land, to bring us up to date, espe­cially on the flu vac­cine.

She ex­plained that flu can cause se­vere ill­ness in those at high risk, in­clud­ing older peo­ple, preg­nant women and peo­ple with an un­der­ly­ing health con­di­tion. They are more vul­ner­a­ble to de­vel­op­ing po­ten­tially se­ri­ous com­pli­ca­tions, such as bron­chi­tis and pneu­mo­nia.

Dr Ram­say ad­vises that the vac­cine is the best form of pro­tec­tion against the spread of flu. This year, the flu im­mu­ni­sa­tion pro­gramme in Eng­land is of­fer­ing those aged sixty-five and over an ad­ju­vanted vac­cine, which has an ex­tra ingredient that should boost its ef­fec­tive­ness. It works by im­prov­ing the body’s im­mune re­sponse to the vac­cine.

This new vac­cine has the po­ten­tial to pre­vent 700 hospi­tal flu deaths and 2,000 hospi­tal ad­mis­sions in Eng­land this year.

In ad­di­tion, all vul­ner­a­ble adults un­der sixty-five (those with se­ri­ous health con­di­tions, preg­nant women and health­care work­ers) will be of­fered a quadri­va­lent vac­cine, which pro­tects against four strains of flu. Last year, the quadri­va­lent vac­cine was not avail­able in all parts of Eng­land.

There is also a child­hood vac­ci­na­tion pro­gramme for flu, of­fered through the GP, for younger chil­dren and in schools.

Flu im­mu­ni­sa­tion poli­cies are set sep­a­rately in Scot­land, North­ern Ire­land and Wales, but they fol­low the same sci­en­tific ad­vice, so wher­ever you live, check with your GP surgery or lo­cal phar­macy to see what’s avail­able.

Flu is not the only germ that can cause se­ri­ous ch­est in­fec­tions. That is why the pneu­mo­coc­cal vac­cine, which pro­tects against pneu­mo­nia-re­lated in­fec­tions, is also avail­able if you’re over sixty-five.

Un­like the flu jab, given ev­ery year, the pneu­mo­coc­cal vac­ci­na­tion is a one-off jab.

If you’re aged be­tween seventy to seventy-nine, you can also ask your GP about hav­ing the shin­gles vac­cine, which helps to pro­tect against this very painful and po­ten­tially fa­tal con­di­tion.

Although you may be of­fered these vac­ci­na­tions along­side your flu jab, you can re­quest them at any time of year, not just dur­ing the win­ter.

If you’d like more in­for­ma­tion, visit the NHS web­site at con­di­tions/vac­ci­na­tions. ■

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