Why I’m having the flu vaccine

I didn’t even think about it when I received a text from our local surgery saying I was within an age bracket eligible to receive the flu vaccine this year.  I called them straight away and am booked in for this Saturday (at 09.02, how terribly precise) despite never having had it (or been eligible) before this year it feels like I am doing my bit for the greater good.

Back in September the NHS urged those working within the NHS to get the vaccination, stating that over 30 million doses would be available this year, to a wider demographic too, doubling the amount vaccine they have had available in previous years.   Yet there is still complacency about getting it, with this report from the BBC suggesting that only 45% of those under 65 and from vulnerable groups are actually doing so.  The World Health Organisation suggests we should be aiming for 70% of people in those vulnerable groups and yet we are at less than half.

Surprisingly that 45% figure above drops to a take up of just 33%  amongst women who are pregnant according to Public Health England.  The vaccination is free for pregnant women as it is for:

  • those aged 65-years and over;
  • with long-term health conditions;
  • children aged 2 to 3 (if they turned 2 by 31 August 2020) and
  • children from 4 to 11 are also eligible for a free flu vaccine.
  • Household members of those on the NHS shielded patient list for COVID-19

and yet only third of pregnant women take advantage of it.    By doing so pregnant women will

  • reduce their risk of serious complications such as pneumonia, particularly in the later stages of pregnancy
  • reduce the risk of miscarriage or having a baby born too soon or with a low birth weight
  • help protect their baby who will continue to have some immunity to flu during the first few months of their life
  • reduce the chance of the mother passing infection to her new baby.

 I didn’t really understand why my daughter was offered the vaccination last year when she was pregnant our grand daughter Lily, but a press release I read this week states:

The flu virus kills 11,000 people and hospitalises tens of thousands more in England in an average year. Women’s immune systems are naturally weakened during pregnancy and flu can cause serious complications for pregnant women including pneumonia, septic shock (a severe and life-threatening infection of the whole body), meningitis and encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). Pregnant women are seven times more likely to die from flu than women who are not pregnant and the risks are highest in the last three months of pregnancy.

PREGNANT WOMEN ARE SEVEN TIMES MORE LIKEY TO DIE FROM FLU THAN WOMEN WHO ARE NOT PREGNANT is a horrifying statistic, and one I had no idea about.    In fact all the statistics in that quote are terrifying.  11,000 people dying from flu, would have ever guessed it was that high, or even known that flu is deadly?  People joke about “oh I have got the flu” when really all they have is a nasty cold.  Clearly it is absolutely more than that and this year will put untold pressure on the NHS at a time when they going to be seeing rising cases of Covid-19.   Tens of thousands being admitted to ICU or HDU when they, and their staff, are at breaking point.

If you are in one of the eligible groups, then please do find out more information on how to book the flu vaccine.  You can contact your local GP or pharmacist or visit: www.nhs.uk/fluvaccine.

And you better believe I will be in the queue when I am offered the Covid-19 vaccination too.  Seeing Margaret Keenan get hers this week (make a note of her name, it will be the answer to a question in every end of year quiz later this month) made me cheer, not only because at 90 she was happy to be vaccinated but because it signifies that we are one step closer to being able to possibly get back to some kind of normal.


Image of vaccination courtesy of Shutterstock

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