Health leaders in Bolton are urging people to get their flu jab ahead of another critical winter for the NHS.
Flu is a serious illness that kills thousands of people each year and places immense pressure on health services.
Covid-19 and flu will be circulating at the same time this winter so it’s more important than ever to get vaccinated to protect yourself, protect vulnerable people in the community and ease the strain on the NHS.
Dr Niruban Ratnarajah, chair of Bolton Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “It’s vital that people get their flu jab this winter. Both Covid-19 and flu will be around at the same time and you definitely don’t want to come down with either – or both!
“Flu’s not just a bad cold. If you catch flu you will know about it and it could develop into something even more serious.
“If you do get flu, having had the vaccine will reduce the severity of the infection and could even save your life. It will also reduce the chances of spreading the virus to vulnerable loved ones.
“There is a commonly held view that the flu vaccine can give you flu – this is simply not true. You may have a sore arm afterwards, or children might feel a bit snuffly after having had the nasal spray, but this is nothing compared to genuine flu.
“GP practices and pharmacies across Bolton have started their flu vaccination programmes and I would urge anyone who is entitled to a free flu jab to get one.
“But please remember that the flu vaccine won’t protect you against Covid and vice versa. If you’re eligible, you’ll need both vaccines this winter to ensure the best protection against both viruses.”
Councillor Susan Baines, Bolton Council’s executive cabinet member for wellbeing, added: “We are already seeing a great deal of pressure on the health and social care system and there is a challenging winter ahead.
“It is always important that people get their flu jab, but this could be the most critical flu season yet.
“If you have never had a flu jab before, I urge you to have one as soon as possible to keep yourself safe, protect others and avoid putting extra pressure on the NHS.”
Karen Meadowcroft, Chief Nurse at Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The flu can be a nasty virus, and every year we see and treat the effects of it in our community. In some extreme cases flu can be fatal, and every year we encourage those who are eligible to receive the vaccine to protect themselves and others in order to keep staff well, reduce our hospital admissions and protect our critical care services.
“We’re working hard to vaccinate as many of our staff against flu as possible this winter, as well as providing Covid booster jabs, in order to keep our patients and our families safe.”
Flu is easily spread through coughs and sneezes, by touching surfaces then touching your face, and through saliva or nose secretions (snot). That’s why it’s important to wash your hands regularly, and to use a tissue and bin it when you cough and sneeze.
Vaccination is the best defence against flu. It reduces your chances of getting flu and spreading it to family members, friends or colleagues who may be less able to fight off the infection. It also reduces your risk of becoming seriously ill and having to go to hospital if you do catch flu.
Among those who are most at risk from flu are the over-50s, pregnant women, children and people with existing health conditions such as diabetes or COPD. They are entitled to get a free flu vaccination along with carers and health and care workers.
Anyone who is not eligible for a free jab can still get vaccinated at their local pharmacy for around £10 to £15.
Children are considered flu ‘super spreaders’; if they give an elderly relative flu, they could make them extremely ill.
School children in Reception to Year 11 can be vaccinated against flu with a free, painless nasal spray through their school health programme. The spray is also available for two and three year olds and parents should receive a letter or text inviting them to make an appointment with their GP.
Parents who decline the flu nasal spray for their child because it contains porcine gelatine can opt for an injectable alternative if they complete and return the appropriate consent forms.