FRONTLINE HEALTHCARE workers have called for people across North Wales to protect themselves and their loved ones by getting the flu vaccine this winter.
Nurses from across the Betsi Cadwaladr area have joined forces to urge residents to take up the offer of vaccination – to keep themselves, their families and their communities safe.
The flu virus can be deadly and typically results in dozens of admissions to critical care units across North Wales each year.
Tens of thousands of people aged 50 and over will be called a for a free flu vaccine from the start of this year’s campaign for the first time. Other priority groups include two and three year olds, health and care workers, and anyone with an underlying health condition.
Specialist respiratory nurse Linda Tadgell has delivered thousands of flu shots over the last five years in her role as a staff flu vaccinator at the health board.
Last year she received a national award for her role vaccinating colleagues at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd.
She said: “Make sure you get your flu vaccine this year, because it will help to protect you and the people who are important to you – your loved ones, family and friends, and relatives who are vulnerable or who might be shielding.
“Getting the flu jab is easy – it takes five minutes, is free for people in the target groups, and reduces the risk of severe illness.”
Her message was echoed by Katherine White, a Medicines Management Specialist Nurse at Wrexham Maelor Hospital.
“Flu can spread very easily. We can do our bit to protect ourselves by washing our hands regularly, and by sneezing and coughing into tissues and making sure that they go into the bin,” she said.
“Particularly this year more than ever, because of COVID, it’s so important that people do what they can to protect themselves and others – and by having the flu vaccine we can protect those people who are more vulnerable.”
Behaviour analyst Tony Green works with the Complex Needs Service based at Bryn Y Neuadd in Llanfairfechan.
He said: “If you catch flu then you could go home, maybe give it to your family, your children, or particularly elderly relatives who could be a lot more vulnerable, and anyone with any underlying health complications.
“Flu is a serious condition, with serious consequences. As we know, the flu mutates every year – so it’s important to have your jab every year to update that protection.”
Trainee Nurse Endoscopist Sandra Ewing volunteers to deliver flu vaccines to her colleagues at Ysbyty Gwynedd.
“We want people to be well and we want our staff to be well,” she said. “We want to reduce the impact on critical care and reduce the pressure on hospital beds.
“My advice would be to not just think of yourself, but think of the protection you’re giving to others as well. It is really important – it has never been so important.”
People in priority vaccination groups should look out for invitations to receive their flu vaccination from their GP surgery, or attend one of the dozens of community pharmacies delivering flu vaccines across North Wales this winter.
Schoolchildren will receive their flu vaccine via nasal spray through their school.
Betsi Cadwaladr Executive Director of Public Health Teresa Owen said the NHS in North Wales again faced the prospect of an extraordinarily busy winter, with coronavirus circulating widely in the community.
“Because of a successful flu vaccination campaign and measures to control the spread of COVID-19 there were very few cases of flu in North Wales last winter,” she said.
“But, with the easing of restrictions over recent months, there is a real risk from flu this winter. With more of us are circulating and socialising, the flu virus has greater opportunity to spread.
“If you meet the criteria, the best thing you can do to stay healthy this winter is make sure you get both your free flu vaccine and your COVID booster. This will give you and your loved ones the best possible protection against both viruses, help to slow their spread, and help to protect the NHS.”
For more information about the flu vaccine, please visit click here.