Manchester’s Councillor Bev Craig, is the latest person to get on board with a dedicated campaign – that includes cabs turned out with flu messages – in a bid to drive more people in Greater Manchester to beat some of the winter blues with a single vaccination.
The multi-media flu campaign is part of a planned approach to keeping people well and helping to take the pressure off the urgent care system ahead of predictions about this year’s virus strain and effects.
In total there are one million free flu vaccinations available to people most at risk of flu this year across Manchester and the Greater Manchester region.
These people in the ‘at risk’ groups – people aged over 65, people with long-term health conditions like asthma and diabetes, pregnant women, people with a body mass index (BMI) of over 40 and carers.
Now, Cllr Craig, who is Manchester’s Executive Member for Adult Health and Wellbeing, is also backing the campaign for both professional and personal reasons where, as a carer and someone who has asthma, she falls into two of the ‘risk’ groups.
She said: “I have the jab each year – it’s painless and it means that I am looking after myself and also those that depend on me. The vaccination is also the first line of defence in stopping the spread of the virus and its knock-on effects on our hospitals and urgent care system.”
Last year just over half of those people eligible for a free flu jab took it up in Greater Manchester, which is why the ten areas are now working together along with the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership (the body overseeing the region’s devolved £6bn health and social care budget) to give more impetus to the messages around winter illnesses.
Specifically, the Greater Manchester flu element of the campaign will focus on two particular audiences – parents of 2-8- year-olds and people in the clinical at risk groups, in addition to those over the age of 65.
A nasal flu vaccination is also offered to children free of charge. Parents of toddlers aged 2 or 3 can get them vaccinated at their GP surgery. School children from reception up to year 4 receive their vaccination at school, which parents give their consent for.
Lord Peter Smith, Chair of Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership and portfolio lead for health and social care at Greater Manchester Combined Authority, said: “Flu season typically starts now, which is why we want to raise awareness now of how people can get a simple flu vaccination through GP surgeries, pharmacies and through schools.
“Last year only just over half of people eligible for a free jab took it up. These are figures we have to change because flu is an extremely serious condition – and in some cases people can die, or be hospitalised with it.”
Graham Munslow, Clinical Screening and Immunisations Manager at Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, said: “Looking at last year’s results we know we have particular room for improvement on the number of 2-3 year-olds being vaccinated at their GP surgery, and those children who attend school between the ages of 4 to 8 years old. This latter age group is one that can not only be very ill through flu, but also spread the virus to a wider network of people.
“But, ultimately, we want everyone to protect themselves from the virus, which will also mean fewer hospital admissions.”