NHS Shetland has issued an urgent call for isles residents to be vaccinated against flu after it emerged that less than half the people at risk have had their injection.
GP consultations for flu increased during December, and now flu immunisation co-ordinator at NHS Shetland Susan Laidlaw is urging locals to protect themselves as the flu virus circulates. More than 50 per cent of people in Shetland who had a letter inviting them to have the free flu vaccination have yet to take it up.
Dr Laidlaw said the virus is now widely circulating and “at risk” groups should get their annual flu vaccine as soon as possible.
People with chronic conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema, asthma, heart problems, diabetes, kidney or liver disease, lowered immunity and women who are pregnant, can be hit harder by flu and suffer more serious complications, even if they are generally fit. These groups are eligible to receive the vaccine at their local GP surgery.
Figures revealed this week, show that 58 per cent of pregnant women in Shetland are still to receive the flu vaccine. Being pregnant means a greater risk of becoming seriously ill from flu because a woman’s immune system changes to help them cope with pregnancy. At worst, this could lead to premature labour or miscarriage.
Dr Laidlaw said: “The flu virus circulates more easily in low temperatures and as winter progresses flu viruses are spreading across Scotland. It is vital that those eligible make an appointment to get the vaccination as soon as possible, and help start the New Year in good health. It only takes a few minutes and even if you were immunised against flu last winter it is important to receive the vaccine again, as the viruses change each season.
“Flu is much worse than the common cold and can cause serious health complications for those in the at risk groups. Even if you feel fit and healthy, you should visit your GP for the flu vaccine if you have an underlying health condition or are pregnant. Mums-to-be can take a positive step towards avoiding catching flu and passing the virus on to their unborn baby.”
“Each season there is a race against time to help protect people from flu before it spreads through the community. The vaccine takes 10-14 days to work and should protect you from flu for a year. It is free for all those who have underlying health conditions, pregnant women, and those who are 65 or older. Those who are eligible and have not yet been vaccinated should make an appointment with their GP surgery as soon as possible.”
If you would like to find out more information about the flu vaccine, contact NHS Inform on 0800 22 44 88 or log on to www.immunisationscotland.org.uk.