THE annual Hywel Dda programme to encourage people in eligible groups across mid and west Wales to have a vaccination to protect themselves from influenza (flu), a virus that can cause serious illness, was launched on Thursday (Sep 27).

This will complement the national Beat Flu campaign which launches (3rd October), led by Public Health Wales.

This year Hywel Dda has developed a localised campaign aimed at bringing together every resident in mid and west Wales to tackle this problem as one collective community.

The superhero based theme is a call to action urging residents to become a “superprotector” by getting vaccinated which will ultimately help protect themselves, patients, their families, colleagues and neighbours from catching flu.

The theme will be introduced across Hywel Dda sites using visuals and messaging that have been developed to be eye catching, memorable and mean something to those that that view the messages with a hope that they are encouraged to make the effort to receive their flu vaccination.

We have particular challenges around flu vaccination uptake in the Hywel Dda region so whilst the campaign calls on everyone to get vaccinated it also focuses specifically groups that are eligible for a free vaccination which include NHS staff, pregnant women, people with certain chronic long term health conditions (a full list can be found below), and everyone aged 65 and over.

We are also encouraging everyone, whether eligible for a free NHS vaccine or not, to have the vaccination to help prevent the spread of flu. Children aged two to ten years (age on 31st August 2018) are also eligible as the vaccine programme for children is again being extended this year.

The vaccine for adults is a small injection, but for children it is a simple nasal spray. Children aged between two and three years can receive the nasal vaccine at their GP surgery while those in reception class and every primary school (years 1-6) can get it at school.

To support the principle that the fight against flu is something we all need to work together to win the Hywel Dda University Health Board Executive Directors and Independent Members have held their own vaccination session at today’s Board meeting in Ceredigion to show their support and commitment to the campaign.

Ros Jervis, Director of Public Health for Hywel Dda University Health Board, who launched the campaign today, reiterated it is vital that those most at risk take advantage of the free vaccine: “Influenza can be a life-threatening illness for people who are at risk due to their age, an underlying health problem, or because they are pregnant. Sadly, influenza kills people in Wales every year.

“Influenza spreads very easily. Extending the programme to more children this year will help protect them from catching flu, and will also prevent them spreading it to others in the community who may be very vulnerable. I particularly call on the parents of 2-3 year old children to get their children vaccinated with the simple nasal spray this year as the statistics show as few as six 2-3 year old children vaccinated prevents one case of flu – this age group has the best opportunity over all others to help stop the spread of flu – they are our ultimate “superprotectors”.

“People can be seriously ill with influenza, and a flu vaccination is the best way to protect against it, so I call on each and every person in the Hywel Dda region including all our own staff to join us in helping prevent the spread of this virus by getting vaccinated and help make our local community a safer place to live this winter.”

While most NHS flu vaccines are given in GP surgeries, free vaccination is also available for some eligible adults in many community pharmacies across Wales. Carers, volunteers providing planned emergency first aid, Community First Responders and for the first time this year, people working in care homes that have regular client contact are also entitled to the vaccine.

It’s also recommended that frontline health and social care workers have the free vaccine to protect themselves and those they care for. They can talk to their occupational health department or employer about where and when they can get their vaccine.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT INFLUENZA AND THE VACCINE

Influenza is a respiratory illness caused by a virus that affects the lungs and airways. Symptoms generally come on suddenly, and can include fever, chills, headache, cough, body aches and fatigue. The influenza virus is spread via droplets which are sprayed into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Direct contact with contaminated hands or surfaces can also spread infection. It can spread rapidly, especially in closed communities such as hospitals, residential homes and schools. The influenza viruses that circulate and cause illness each winter change and therefore each year the flu vaccine is changed to try and match the circulating strains, in order to give best protection.

Find out more by visiting www.beatflu.org or www.curwchffliw.org or finding Beat Flu or Curwch Ffliw on Twitter and Facebook.

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