PEOPLE who are 65 and over and those who are younger but with chronic conditions like asthma, diabetes or heart disease are being urged to get their annual flu injection.
Despite an increase in the uptake of the flu jab in recent years, there was a fall last year – 2007/08 – to an average of 64% in the over 65 age group from 68% in 2005/6.
In the “at risk” groups under 65, uptake varied from 63% in those with diabetes to 27% among people with neurological conditions, but overall more people in this age group are getting their injection – 42% in 2007/08 compared with almost 28% in 2005/06.
The national target is 70% for all age groups.
The annual seasonal flu vaccination programme is part of the Welsh Assembly Government’s Keep Well This Winter campaign, which provides advice and support to people aged 65 and over to help them stay fit and healthy during the winter months.
The Deputy Minister for Social Services, Gwenda Thomas, who has turned 66 this year, stressed the importance of getting the flu vaccination.
Mrs Thomas said: “Flu vaccination is the simplest and most effective way of protecting the health of older people and those in groups at risk.
“Flu can be a dangerous virus, resulting in a person being admitted to hospital or even dying in the most severe cases among vulnerable people.
“That’s why the Welsh Assembly Government provides free flu jabs for people aged 65 and over and for younger people at risk because of certain medical conditions.
“It is simple to book an injection and only takes a few minutes. It is important if you are over 65, like me, or if you have a chronic condition, to contact your GP to see when the flu vaccination sessions are taking place, or when you can have your injection.”
Dr Tony Jewell, chief medical officer for Wales, added: “Flu can make you very ill indeed and can lead to serious complications, such as pneumonia. Fortunately, the risk from flu is reduced by routine vaccination.
“Everyone aged 65 and over should contact their GP surgery to arrange their flu jab. Those others who are younger but with conditions such as heart or lung disease, should book in for their flu jab before the winter gets under way as January is the most common time for seasonal flu.
“As well as the flu jab, we are reminding people that if they do have a cold or flu they can take simple steps to reduce the risk of spread. Our campaign Coughs and Sneezes Spread Diseases highlights the simple, common sense things people can do, such as the importance of using a tissue if they cough or sneeze and to then throw it away, and the need to thoroughly wash their hands with soap and hot water.”