Barnsley health workers have already had a positive start to the flu vaccination programme this year as they aim to vaccinate more than 100,000 people during this flu season.
The expanded flu vaccination programme is part of plans to ready the NHS – both for the risk of a second peak of coronavirus cases, and to relieve winter pressures on A&E and emergency care.
Dr Nick Balac, chair of Barnsley CCG, said: “This will be the biggest flu vaccination programme we’ve seen in Barnsley, and will help protect our NHS as we head into winter.
“We want to encourage even more people in the at-risk groups to have their vaccine, so pregnant women, people of any age with a long term health condition and the two and three year olds for example. We’ll also have new groups who will be eligible this year like those in year 7.”
“If you are eligible for a free vaccine then I would urge you to get it, not just to protect yourself, but to protect your loved ones and the NHS from flu.”
The vaccination programme for those who are usually eligible has already started. GP practices and pharmacists across the borough are already seeing large numbers of people book their appointments.
Andrea Parkin, head of nursing, Barnsley Healthcare Federation, said: “We’ve had a great response from patients so far at GP practices. NHS staff are working incredibly hard to make sure that people can get their flu vaccines safely this year.
“We’re still in the pandemic of course so we’ve had to put extra things in place to keep areas clean and maintain safe distances in the surgeries. Even though it’s different to what they’re used to, patients have told us that everything has worked well.
“I know lots of GP practices and pharmacies are running extra clinics, with some at the weekend or in the evening, to make sure we can offer the vaccine to as many eligible people as we can.”
Eligible groups are urged to get their free vaccine every year. However with COVID-19 still in circulation, this year’s campaign will be particularly vital to protect the most vulnerable and reduce the number of people needing flu treatment from the NHS.
Julia Burrows, Director of Public Health, said: “Flu can have serious consequences and it leads to many deaths in Barnsley each year. Having the flu jab is a safe and effective way to protect yourself and others, by stopping the spread of the virus.
“With COVID-19 still circulating, we need to be as healthy as possible. More people having the flu jab will help to keep our community safe and well this winter.”
Increased flu vaccinations will help to reduce pressure on the NHS this winter by preventing flu-sickness which can cause hospitalisation and even death.
Cllr Jim Andrews, Barnsley Council cabinet spokesperson for public health, said: “There’s a couple of groups we really want to encourage to get their vaccination this year who may not realise they can get it for free. If you receive a carer's allowance, or you're the main carer for an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if you fall ill, then you can request a free vaccine from your GP or pharmacy.
“The second group is new this year and it’s for people who live with someone who's at high risk of coronavirus and was on the NHS shielded patient list.”
People can also have the flu vaccine if they provide health or social care through Direct Payments (personal budgets) or Personal Health Budgets (such as Personal Assistants) or both.
Later in the year, the flu vaccine may be given to 50-64-year-olds who aren’t usually eligible. Vaccinations for this age group are not available yet and more information will be available later in the autumn.
As well as people in the at-risk groups, health and care workers across the borough are getting their jabs. Barnsley Hospital are once again offering a flu vaccine to all their staff and volunteers. Immunised health workers help protect colleagues and patients from catching flu. The internal vaccination team at Barnsley Hospital is made up of volunteer “peer vaccinators”, and will this year include Director of Nursing Jackie Murphy.