PATIENTS across Berkshire West are being urged to seek flu vaccinations from either their GP practice or pharmacy in a bid to ensure everyone who’s eligible for a free jab takes up the offer.

Dr Abid Iran, Chair of the Berkshire West Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Our surgeries have already vaccinated thousands of people this year and we’re very grateful to them for coming forward for their flu jab, which will prevent them catching this extremely contagious virus.

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"Not only are they protecting themselves and their loved ones, they are helping protect the NHS and freeing up staff to concentrate on people who are very seriously ill.

“However, it’s clear there are still many people who are eligible for a free vaccination but haven’t come forward.

"It may be they are worried about catching Covid or they don’t want to burden staff who could otherwise be dealing with Covid.

"I want to reassure them that all our clinics and surgeries are operating very strict social distancing and infection control measures, so they are safe places to attend."

There is some concern among local healthcare teams about the low numbers from some patient groups having the flu vaccine, and they are keen to further encourage those with the following health issues to book for their vaccination as soon as possible:

• Patients with Down’s Syndrome

• Patients who are overweight, with a BMI of 40 or over - even if they don’t have any other health issues

• Pregnant women

• Patients who have long term health conditions, such as: A heart problem, chest complaint or breathing difficulties, a kidney disease, lowered immunity due to treatment, diabetes, heart or liver disease, neurological conditions.

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It is also vital to protect health and social care staff who are looking after others, from flu.

So health officials are urging anyone who works or volunteers in the following areas to make sure they have their free vaccination:

• Staff working in care homes, this include all staff, irrespective of their role

• Frontline health and social care workers

• Health and social care workers employed through Direct Payment (personal budgets) and/or Personal Health Budgets, such as Personal Assistants, to deliver domiciliary care to patients and service users

• Carers, receiving carers allowance, or who are the main carer for an older or disabled person who may be at risk if their carer was ill and couldn’t support them.

There has been high uptake of the vaccine from these patient groups and this will help protect them this winter.

Anyone in these groups who’s not yet had their vaccination is being urged to book a slot with their GP or pharmacist:

• pre-school children (aged 2 to 3 years on August 31, 2020)

• those aged 65 years and over

• those in long-stay residential care homes

• members of a shielding household.

The School Immunisation Team continues to work across Berkshire West to vaccinate the primary school aged children and those in Year 7 (aged 4 to 11 on August 31, 2020).

Further details on vaccination arrangements for 50-64 year olds are due soon from NHS England and once this has been sorted GP practices and local pharmacies will publicise availability to patients.