‘Get that flu jab’ warning

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HEALTH chiefs are urging parents of youngsters with long-term health problems to get their children vaccinated against seasonal flu as soon as possible.

NHS North East has launched a fresh appeal urging families in Hartlepool and east Durham with youngsters suffering from illnesses including asthma and diabetes to get the jab.

The call comes just days after the Mail revealed how younger children were being put at risk after not being immunised early enough to prevent potentially deadly diseases.

Officials say people at risk should not wait until there is a flu outbreak and to contact their GP now to get vaccinated.

The appeal comes as early uptake figures show less than a third of eligible young people have had the injection.

Health officials are concerned that only 26 per cent of the region’s estimated 25,000 eligible young people have been protected so far.

During December and January last winter, critical care units across the North-East were under severe pressure caring for patients suffering serious complications of flu.

Most of these patients were young and middle aged adults with long-term conditions such as diabetes and asthma and some sadly died.

Health officials say much of this could have been avoided if people in these at-risk groups had been vaccinated.

Dr Tricia Cresswell, deputy medical director at NHS North East said: “Traditionally the elderly have been more seriously affected by winter flu but the picture is beginning to change as we are seeing a higher proportion of young and middle aged people taken seriously ill.

“Flu can cause serious illness in people with long term conditions including younger people and in the most severe cases can put the lives of people with these conditions in unnecessary danger.

“We don’t want anyone to get ill from something which can be avoided and that’s why we’re appealing to the parents of young people who are in the flu risk groups, to book a vaccination appointment as a matter of priority and before flu starts circulating more widely in the community.”

People who need the flu jab include anyone over six months old with a long-term health problem including diabetes, a chest problem, a heart problem, kidney or liver disease, neurological conditions, spleen problems, stroke sufferers, people with lowered immune systems, anyone aged over 65, residential/care home residents, carers, frontline health and social care workers and pregnant women.

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