Date Published: 2 October 2006

Start of Scottish annual flu immunisation campaign

Health News from Scotland

Today marks the start of the Executive's annual flu and pneumococcal immunisation campaign running over the winter months.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Harry Burns is urging at-risk groups, healthcare workers and carers to get their free vaccination and aims to reassure them that there will be no delay in receiving jabs, despite Europe-wide delays in the production of one of the virus strains.

Dr Burns said:

" Flu is highly infectious and is much more common in the winter months. Our annual flu immunisation campaign starts today and I would urge people at risk of complications if they catch flu, to get their vaccine before winter starts.

_ Flu can pose serious implications for people with certain illnesses and for those aged over 65. The vast majority of deaths that occur as a result of flu happen in the over-65s. That is why it is so important that older people get vaccinated before winter begins.

_ Other groups most at risk of complications from flu are adults and children with diabetes, asthma and other chronic medical conditions. These people cannot fight flu as effectively and flu for them could lead to more serious illness such as bronchitis or pneumonia, if they are not protected. These groups should contact their GP and arrange for a free flu jab before winter begins.

_ Healthcare workers and carers may also be at risk of getting flu as they will be working closely with those who have the infection. They should get their jab to prevent the spread of flu and protect people they are caring for.

_ As it has already been documented, due to problems growing one of the vaccine's virus strains delivery of the flu vaccine will be slightly delayed by approximately one month across Europe.

_ GPs are liaising closely with community pharmacists who supply the vaccine to ensure they have vaccines in place before they finalise their schedule of vaccine clinics and publicise them to their patients. Despite these delays, I am assured that there will be sufficient flu vaccine to immunise these at-risk groups before winter starts.

_ Our message is don't let the bug bite. People at risk of complications from catching flu should be prudent and get their vaccine. It is the only way people can protect themselves from flu."

Background

Flu is a highly infectious virus caused by influenza viruses. Flu is most common during the winter months. Pneumoccoccal disease is the term used to describe a range of illnesses such as pneumonia, blood poisoning and meningitis. Both infections can be spread by coughs, sneezes and close contact between people.

The Scottish Executive's annual winter campaign encourages people aged over 65 and those with certain illnesses, who are most at risk of complications from catching flu or pneumococcal infection to get immunised. People with diabetes, asthma and other chronic medical conditions have a high risk of complications from flu, and are the target groups for the immunisation campaign. Since last year, individuals with chronic liver disease and carers are now included in the free immunisation.

Targets are set for the uptake of the flu vaccination and these are achieved with intensive efforts from GP practices, healthcare staff, with the support of a communications campaign. The Executive aims to ensure a 70% uptake amongst people aged 65 or over and a 60% uptake for the 'at risk' clinical group.

Last year there was a 77.8% uptake in flu vaccine among the over 65s. Based on Registrar General population estimates for 2005 there were 833, 094 adults aged over 65 years in Scotland. Therefore at a 77.8% uptake, approximately 648,147 would be immunised.

The Scottish Executive's annual flu and pneumococcal immunisation campaign will include the following activity:

  • Informative newspaper articles in national press and pharmaceutical media
  • Radio and TV adverts featuring Dr Chris Steele from ITV's This Morning programme
  • Working with key organisations such as Diabetes Scotland and the National Asthma Campaign to raise awareness amongst the public of the campaign
  • Wide distribution of informative leaflets and posters about flu and pneumococcal infection

People who want to arrange for a free flu vaccine should contact their GP practice.

 

Source: Scottish Executive (Scotland).

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