Free flu vaccinations are being offered to more people than ever before in Greater Manchester this winter.
The expansion of the flu vaccination programme, which is taking place across the country, has been introduced to both increase the number of people protected against flu and reduce the expected winter pressures on the NHS – as it continues to deal with coronavirus.
1.6 million people in Greater Manchester can now get a free flu vaccination, with approximately 670,000 more vaccinations being offered than during the last flu season.
The Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership is also launching a selection of new flu vaccination services to make sure the most vulnerable are protected against flu.
The services aim to increase uptake of the vaccine among groups of people who historically have not received it in large numbers. These include homeless people and rough sleepers, and users of drug and alcohol services. It is believed this approach is unique to Greater Manchester.
For example, Urban Village Medical Practice, in Manchester, will be working with partners across the city to vaccinate as many homeless people as possible. They are set to run mobile flu clinics at homeless hostels, shelters and at support services in the city centre.
Substance misuse charity Change, Grow, Live will also be encouraging their services users to get vaccinated and when possible vaccinate them directly.
Many areas of Greater Manchester are finding innovative ways to make it as easy as possible to get the flu vaccine while maintaining social distancing.
For example, in Hyde people can book an appointment to get their free shot at a vaccination drive-thru. This means they can get their vaccination without even having to leave their car, all they need to do is drive to the site.
Tameside Council Executive Member Cllr Eleanor Wills, responsible for health, said: “It’s more important than ever this year that everyone who is eligible for a free flu vaccination gets one to protect themselves and others.
“GP practices have been working hard to find different, innovative ways to ensure people can get their vaccinations safely and easily and the drive thru at Hyde is a great example of this. Everyone should contact their own GP practice to see what the local arrangements are for getting their vaccination.”
The flu vaccine is given to adults and older children with an injection. Younger children are given the vaccine with a nasal spray.
In previous years, some children have been unable to have the vaccine, as the nasal spray contains a small amount of porcine gelatine. Parents who have concerns need to discuss this with their GP, or practice nurse.
Flu can cause severe illness and even death among vulnerable groups, including older people, pregnant women and people with an underlying health condition.
Christine Khiroya, Greater Manchester nurse consultant with lead responsibility for screening and immunisation, said:
“It has always been very important that as many people as possible get the flu vaccination, it not only protects them but prevents the virus from being spread to their friends and family.
“This year it is even more vital, with coronavirus still widely circulating in communities, we should all be taking precautions to keep ourselves and the people we come in to contact with safe.
“Flu can be extremely serious, and in some cases life threatening, but unlike coronavirus we have an effective vaccine. The more people who are eligible for the flu vaccine who receive it the better. I would advise you to check with your GP or pharmacist if you are eligible for the NHS flu vaccination, you’re not only protecting yourself and your community but reducing the strain on health services that are already dealing with a pandemic.”
The flu vaccination is available now from GP surgeries and pharmacies. The autumn is the best time to get the vaccination before flu starts circulating, though it is still worth getting later if someone hasn’t had the vaccine early.
Currently those eligible for the free vaccination are:
There is a possibility that later in the year the programme will be widened to also include healthy people aged 50 to 64.
Flu vaccines are free for all eligible people from GPs and local pharmacies. Social distancing measures will be in place at vaccination appointments.
Those in an eligible group should have received a text or letter form their GP advising them about the vaccine. If you have not been contacted or want to check if you are eligible for the vaccine please contact your GP or pharmacy to arrange your vaccination.
Find out more about the flu vaccination at nhs.uk/fluvaccine