At this time of year, during pre-covid times, primary care would be busily preparing behind the scenes for our annual flu vaccine drop in clinics which usually run in the later quarter of the year. These are important events both for our communities but also for our health care teams as we seek to protect our most vulnerable patients and their carers from the dreaded influenza virus. Part of our work involves publicising this important vaccination message, but this year most of us are already fully aware of the potentially lethal impact of viruses and the importance of vaccines given that we have spoken of little else over the past 10 months.
Clearly the covid virus pandemic and consequent vaccination programme have taken centre stage in many of our lives but other viruses including influenza has not gone away and are expected to return with vengeance later this year as the twin impacts of social contact returns to normal and winter sets in. In general practice we are already seeing an early surge of patients with respiratory viruses across all age groups. Similar to the covid and influenza respiratory virus illnesses, another example of this is the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) which causes bronchiolitis in young children leading some to need hospitalisation and can sadly even be fatal.
Judging by the impressive uptake of the covid vaccines amongst our vulnerable patient groups and their carers (thank you!!) I know I am already preaching to the converted about the importance of the flu vaccination programme. Just to re-emphasis, we are anticipating a higher level of flu this year which will cause some people to become unwell, some to require hospitalisation and some will sadly succumb. The flu vaccination can both personally project you and your loved ones from this nasty virus but will also mean that there is hopefully less pressure on our precious NHS which is anticipating a busy winter.
Please ensure that you and your loved ones get your flu vaccine when offered by your GP practice later this year and also spread the flu vaccination message with your carer friends and colleagues so we can all reduce our chances of catching and passing on ‘the flu’.