Flu jabs and vaccinations become available every year on the NHS to help protect adults and children at risk of flu and its complications. But at the beginning of November, some schools were told to reschedule plans for vaccinating pupils after AstraZeneca said it needed “to repeat some tests” for the nasal spray – the vaccination routinely given to children.
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The problems were not related to the safety or efficacy of the vaccine itself and the adult flu programme was not affected by the delay.
Now, the issue has been resolved and primary school-age children will once again receive their vaccines via rescheduled clinics.
Parents of children in high-risk groups, such as those with asthma or diabetes, are still being advised to contact their GP to be seen sooner.
Children who are aged two and three are eligible for the flu vaccine nasal spray via their GP surgery.
People aged 65 and over, children and adults with underlying medical conditions and pregnant women are urged to get their free vaccine in the next few weeks before the flu season peaks, typically in January.
Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at PHE, said: “The flu vaccine is the best defence we have against what can be a serious and fatal illness, and flu season is just around the corner.
“If you are in an eligible group, visit your GP or pharmacist as soon possible to ensure you are protected.”
Professor Stephen Powis, NHS England national medical director, said: “Flu can be extremely serious and even kill in some cases, and getting vaccinated is the best protection against it.
“NHS services across England continue to work hard to prepare for the winter season, including staff getting their free flu jab, and now we’re appealing to the public to ‘Help Us, Help You’ by ensuring that they and their eligible children or relatives get vaccinated, now.”
Professor Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said: “Influenza can be a very unpleasant illness, and while it is not generally a serious illness for most people, for those in at-risk groups, such as young children, elderly people, those with long-term conditions and pregnant women, flu has the potential to trigger life-threatening complications.
“The best defence against the flu is to be vaccinated and we strongly urge all patients in at-risk groups to get vaccinated and for parents to ensure their young children receive their vaccine as soon as possible.”
At-risk groups eligible for the flu vaccine include people with a chronic neurological disease; respiratory, heart, kidney or liver disease; diabetes and the over-65s.
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Pregnant women have a much higher risk of serious illness if they get the flu, with possible complications including pneumonia, septic shock and encephalitis (inflammation of the brain).
Clare Livingstone, professional policy adviser at the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), said: “The RCM recommends that pregnant women have the flu vaccination.
“The flu is a highly infectious illness, which can be very serious during pregnancy for both mums-to-be and their babies.
“That is why we are encouraging all pregnant women to have the vaccine as soon as possible so they are protected from flu viruses circulating this winter.
“It’s important that if pregnant women have any questions or concerns about the flu vaccination or any vaccination in pregnancy that they speak to their midwife, GP or practice nurse who can provide them with more information and advice.”
As well as GP surgeries, the flu jab is available at Boots, Asda, Tesco, Lloyds Pharmacy and Superdrug.
If you’re not eligible for a free flu jab then the vaccine is available at a small fee.
The vaccine at Asda Pharmacy is £7 and booking are available now.
Superdrug is providing a walk-in vaccination service. The cost of the jab is £9.99.
From October, vaccinations will be available at selected Tesco Pharmacy stores in England and Wales.
You’ll be bale to make an appointment to have one, or receive one straight away after filling in a short questionnaire.
It takes 15 minutes, during which the pharmacist will explain the process and answer any queries, and costs just £10.
The flu vaccine at Lloyds is just £11.50. The healthcare team at your local pharmacist will be able to tell you what’s right for you.
The jab costs £12.99. You can book an appointment either in store or online.
Appointments for children ages 11 to 15 can only be booked in selected stores.
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