Health leaders across Milton Keynes are urging pregnant women and young children to have their free flu vaccinations as soon as possible.
If you are pregnant, become pregnant or are planning to become pregnant during the flu season this year then you are eligible for a free annual flu vaccination - this will protect you and your baby when it is born.
If you have a child aged between two and eight years old, they are also eligible for a free flu vaccination. This is a simple nasal spray.
Flu vaccinations are given annually, as flu strains vary year-on-year. In order to get maximum protection you should aim to have your vaccination or get your child vaccinated early this year, ideally between September and November.
Seasonal flu is caused by a contagious respiratory virus and symptoms normally improve within a week. However, flu can lead to serious complications such as severe pneumonia, meningitis, severe ear infection and tonsillitis. It can also result in a worsening of existing medical conditions such as asthma, and can even lead to death.
Pregnant women and children are more at risk of developing serious complications. The flu vaccination cannot stop all flu viruses, but it is the best protection we have against flu and can help to prevent serious complications. As well as affecting you, flu can also affect your unborn child, potentially leading to miscarriage, premature birth, low birth weight and may cause still birth
Having a vaccination during pregnancy can also help to protect your baby against the flu for several months after they are born, which is important as babies cannot be vaccinated before 6 months old. You will be given an intramuscular vaccination, offered at your local GP surgery or at some community pharmacies.
Muriel Scott, director of public health for Milton Keynes said: “In 2016-2017, 50 children age 0-4 and 26 children aged between 5-18 were admitted to hospital across Milton Keynes because of flu related complications.
Dr Nicola Smith, chair of Milton Keynes Clinical Commissioning Group said: “Children are the biggest source of transmission of the virus so as well as helping to protect your child the flu vaccine can effectively help to prevent the transmission of flu to vulnerable members of the community.”
Children aged two to eight will normally receive a live vaccination as a simple nasal spray. Children aged two- three years old will be vaccinated at a GP surgery and children aged four to eight years old will be vaccinated by the school nursing team provided by Essex Partnership University Trust (EPUT).
The flu vaccination does not give you the flu, but you may experience minor symptoms afterwards, as with other vaccinations.