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Free flu vaccine more important than ever for people with breathing conditions

Published December 03, 2020 11.10am


People with breathing conditions are being urged to take up their free flu vaccine offer to protect themselves and help reduce pressure on the NHS this winter.

Almost 16,000 people with a breathing condition in County Durham have not yet taken up the offer of a flu vaccine, meaning they and their loved ones are still at risk from this potentially life-threatening illness.

There are approximately 27,000 people of all ages living with a chronic breathing condition, such as asthma, emphysema, cystic fibrosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), in the county and they are all eligible for a free flu vaccine.

People with breathing conditions are at increased risk of getting flu and being seriously affected by it and are also seven times more likely to die from flu than someone without an underlying health condition. However, the latest figures from Public Health England have revealed more than one third of those eligible for a free flu vaccine on these grounds have not taken up the offer.

Sharing the message

This has prompted our Public Health team, County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, NHS County Durham Clinical Commissioning Group and NHS North of England Commissioning Support Unit to join forces to raise awareness of the importance of the flu vaccine, particularly among those with breathing conditions.

It is part of the joint #DoYourBit campaign set up by NHS and Public Health organisations across the region to encourage people to protect themselves and others by getting the flu vaccine. By keeping the number of flu patient admissions to hospital as low as possible, the NHS will be better placed to cope with the additional pressures of coronavirus during the winter season.

Also, by getting the flu vaccination now, people can ease the burden on those administering the Covid vaccine when it becomes available.

To find out more about #DoYourBit, visit the Do Your Bit website.

Protecting ourselves and our loved ones

Cllr Lucy Hovvels

Cllr Lucy Hovvels, our Cabinet member for adult and health services

Cllr Lucy Hovvels, our Cabinet member for Adult and Health Services, said: "It is concerning to see so many people with breathing conditions have not yet taken up the offer of the free flu vaccine.

"I know many people living with such conditions are trying to avoid leaving the house due to the coronavirus pandemic and this is understandable. However, by failing to get the flu vaccine they are putting themselves and others at risk.

"Now more than ever we are aware of the need to protect our loved ones, friends and neighbours and that is why it is vital that we all do our bit to protect the NHS and that everyone who is eligible for the flu vaccine gets it. You may not be seriously affected yourself, but you could pass it on to someone who might be, so please contact your GP and make an appointment as soon as possible."

Dr Steve Cowie, consultant respiratory physician at County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, said, "People with a chronic respiratory condition such as asthma, emphysema, cystic fibrosis and COPD are more likely to be seriously affected by flu and, sadly, are also at greater risk of dying.

"They are also at greater risk of becoming very unwell should they get Covid-19.  It's vital therefore, that they take up the offer of a free flu vaccine to protect themselves."

Eligible for a free flu vaccine

As well as those with respiratory conditions, other people eligible for a free flu vaccine include: everyone aged 50 and over; pregnant women; children aged two to three years; people with certain health conditions; people in long-stay residential care; those on a carer's allowance or anyone who is the main carer for an older or disabled person; people living with someone at high risk from coronavirus; and frontline health and social care workers.

More information is available on the NHS - Flu Vaccine web page.