SANDWELL Council's health supremos have launched a new anti-flu campaign and want the most vulnerable to get a jab as quickly as possible.

Sandwell Primary Care Trust (PCT) and Sandwell Council have joined forces to ensure those who are most vulnerable protect themselves and others this winter by being vaccinated against flu.

Pregnant women, people over 65, and those – young or old – with a long-term health condition, should all ensure they get the jab as soon as possible.

Healthcare workers, carers, and parents of children aged six months or older who are in an at-risk group should also make sure they have the jab to protect patients or dependants. Those living in a residential or nursing home should be vaccinated to prevent the rapid spread of flu among residents.

Sandwell PCT Director of Public Health John Middleton said: “Flu can be very serious, especially for those who are particularly at risk of complications. Flu is far more than a bad cold – it kills many people in the UK each year.

“Most people who catch flu are very ill for a little while but then recover. For certain members of the community, however, there is a significant chance of suffering complications such as pneumonia that can result in death.

“Our message to those people is, don’t take the risk – get the jab and be flu safe.”

Pregnant women are 18 times more likely than those who are not pregnant to be hospitalised by flu – putting not only themselves but also their unborn baby at risk. 

Pregnant women should also protect their baby from whooping cough. Nine babies have died from whooping cough in England this year up to 1 September – all of them below the age of vaccination.

Elaine Newell, Head of midwifery and Neonates at Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “Having the whooping cough vaccine will boost antibodies in the mum-to-be during late pregnancy – these will be passed from the mother to her baby, protecting it until it is old enough to have its own vaccination. All pregnant women should have the flu jab as well, and it’s safe to have the two vaccinations at the same time.”

Although many of the deaths that happen each year from flu are among the elderly, anyone, of any age, is at risk if they suffer from a long-term condition. These include asthma, diabetes, and heart, chest, liver and kidney problems.

Councillor Paul Moore, Sandwell Council’s cabinet member for health and commissioning, said having the flu jab was one of the most important things people could do to prevent unnecessary deaths and emergency hospital stays this winter.

“For those at risk the complications of seasonal flu can be deadly,” he said. “The best way to protect yourself is to get the free jab by contacting your GP as soon as possible."

The flu jab is free for anyone who is pregnant, over 65, or has a health condition such as severe asthma, diabetes, a chest, heart, liver or kidney complaint, or lowered immunity. People can book an appointment for the vaccination through their GP surgery.

Those not in an at-risk group can pay for a flu vaccination privately through pharmacies or in supermarkets.