Plea for Islanders to vaccinate against flu

Over 48 per cent of people in the Western Isles who suffer from underlying health conditions have yet to receive the free flu vaccine, as it is revealed that GP consultations for flu increased during December.

Health professionals across the country are reminding people who are ‘at risk’ that as the virus is now widely circulating they should get their annual flu vaccine as soon as possible.

People with chronic conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema, asthma, heart problems, diabetes, kidney or liver disease, lowered immunities and women who are pregnant, can be hit harder by flu and suffer more serious complications, even if they are generally fit and healthy.

These groups are eligible to receive the vaccine for free at their local GP surgery.

The figures reveal that 63 per cent of pregnant women are still to receive the flu vaccine. Being pregnant means you’re at a greater risk of becoming seriously ill from flu because a woman’s immune system changes to help them cope with pregnancy. At worst, you could experience premature labour or miscarriage.

Dr Maggie Watts, Flu Immunisation Co-ordinator at NHS Western Isles, said: “The flu virus circulates easier in low temperatures and as winter progresses flu viruses are continuing to spread across Scotland.

“It is vital that those who are eligible make an appointment to get the vaccination as soon as possible, and help start the New Year in good health. It only takes a few minutes and even if you were immunised against flu last winter it is important to receive the vaccine again, as the viruses change each season.”

“Flu is much worse than the common cold and can cause serious health complications for those in the at risk groups. Even if you feel fit and healthy, you should visit your GP for the flu vaccine if you have an underlying health condition or are pregnant. Mums-to-be can take a positive step towards avoiding catching flu and passing the virus on to their unborn baby.”

Each season there is a race against time to help protect people from flu before there is significant spread of flu in the community.

The vaccine takes 10-14 days to work and should protect you from flu for a year. It is free for all those who have underlying health conditions, pregnant women, and those who are 65 or older from flu.

Those who are eligible and have not yet been vaccinated should make an appointment with their GP surgery as soon as possible.

If you would like to find out more information about the flu vaccine, contact NHS Inform on 0800 22 44 88 or log on to