• Local pharmacies help fight flu in Devon

    NHS doctors are urging people across Devon to get vaccinated against flu at their local pharmacy, under a new scheme introduced this winter.

    After the mildest winter on record, experts are warning that the flu season has now started with increasing numbers of flu-like illnesses presenting to GPs. With colder weather expected across the South West imminently, the advice is to get the flu jab to protect yourself.

    The pharmacy scheme aims to increase uptake of the vaccine, especially among people who are under the age of 65 but have a medical condition that makes them more vulnerable.

    While most GP clinics for flu vaccination have now finished, the new high street pharmacy scheme is still available to people who have missed out.

    Any eligible person over the age of 18 can simply drop into their local pharmacy and ask for the jab, with no appointment necessary.

    Across Devon, around 11,000 vaccinations have already been given so far this autumn and winter. Dr Alison Mackenzie, Screening & Immunisation Lead for Public Health and NHS England in the South West, has a simple message “Flu kills".

    She added: “Those who have had the flu will tell you it is very different to a common cold, at the very least confining the fittest of people to bed.

    “But for older people or those with long-term conditions like diabetes, the effects can be much more serious and in some cases fatal.

    “It is really important that you protect yourself by getting the flu vaccination, and your local pharmacy makes it easy.

    “It is quick, simple and despite the myths it cannot actually give you the flu as it contains no live virus.”

    Last year the South West had the highest number of excess winter deaths nationally. These were mainly among over-75s, with a third caused by respiratory diseases like flu.

    Tom Kallis, a pharmacist at Boots in Plymouth, said: “You may not always think of pharmacists as a first port of call when getting your flu vaccination, but many customers have commented that it’s a convenient option as so many pharmacies are accessible beyond the regular nine-to-five, Monday to Friday. It allows people to pop in when it suits them most.”

    He added: “It’s easy to find out if your local pharmacy is offering NHS flu vaccinations. You can text Pharmacy Flu followed by your postcode to 80011. You will be sent a list of the three closest pharmacies offering the NHS Flu Vaccination service.”

    Pharmacies are often open seven days a week, with larger stores offering extended opening from 8am to 8pm. You will need to check opening hours with your local pharmacy to see when they are offering flu jabs.

    Early indications from Public Health England suggest that the vaccination this year is a good match for the circulating virus.

    Dr Alison Mackenzie, Screening & Immunisation Lead for Public Health and NHS England in the South West, went on to say: “The latest figures indicate that cases of flu-like illnesses are now starting to increase and from data available so far, the vaccine appears to be a good match for the circulating virus.

    “The most commonly circulating virus appears to be one that affects children, pregnant women and adults with long term conditions like chronic heart disease, liver disease and respiratory disease in particular, so it is very important for these groups to take up the offer of their free vaccination before flu cases start to increase this winter – it’s not too late to get your vaccination at your local pharmacy.”

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