Published Thursday, 27 September 2012
The flu vaccine is now being offered as a nasal spray for children. (© UTV)
Vulnerable groups of people including pregnant women and the elderly are being urged to get vaccinated for free before the flu season begins.
And children aged 2-17 years at risk of harm from flu will now be offered a vaccination in the form of a nasal spray, which will eventually be offered to all children in the region.
GPs are inviting patients in 'at risk' categories, including people with severe egg allergies, to get the seasonal flu vaccine and protect themselves and their loved ones.
For those people in at risk groups, flu can cause serious illness and result in a stay in hospital, or even death.
The flu virus can differ every flu season, which is why a vaccination if needed every year - so even if you received the vaccine in spring this year, you still need to get the vaccination for this flu season.
Dr Gerry Waldron from the Public Health Agency explained: "Everyone who receives an invitation to be vaccinated against flu should see it as a positive step in protecting their health and the health of others around them.
"The flu vaccine does not give you the flu. It is offered for the sole reason to protect at risk groups because if they get flu, they are more likely to have severe illness and/or develop complications such as pneumonia, which can be life-threatening.
"Pregnant women are more likely to have serious illness if they catch flu, which is why they will be invited by their GP at all stages of pregnancy, to protect them and their unborn baby. Health and Social Care staff are also urged to get vaccinated, to protect themselves, their families and those they care for."
Health Minister Edwin Poots said: "I cannot overstate enough how important it is for people in at risk groups to get vaccinated from the flu as soon as possible to avoid any complications from getting the virus.
"Northern Ireland traditionally achieves a high uptake rate for the 'at risk' groups thanks to the hard work and dedication from all the staff involved in the vaccination programme across the Health and Social Care Trusts and also GPs and their staff."
Minister Poots added: "I would again urge everyone involved in the vaccination programme to try and build on this uptake rate to ensure as many of our most vulnerable citizens are protected against seasonal flu."
It takes ten days following vaccination to develop protection against the virus.
Clinics are offering the vaccine from 1 October.