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Mum's plea for flu jab take-up; As winter draws in, doctors are urging people to get vaccinated against swine flu. JOANNE BUTCHER looks at who is at risk.

Byline: JOANNE BUTCHER

AMOTHER and daughter from Northumberland are urging people to get vaccinated against swine flu to protect themselves and their families from the illness.

Julia Young and her one-yearold daughter Olivia Sunday, who live near Morpeth, have both been vaccinated against swine flu.

The pair fall into groups of people considered at risk from the disease, so they got their jabs from their GP in a bid to keep themselves safe from the bug this winter.

The condition continues to be mild in the majority of cases but it can be much more serious for some people, so patients in the priority groups are being encouraged to take up the offer of a vaccination.

Julia, who is the flu director for NHS North of Tyne, suffers from asthma and after a particularly nasty attack which left her in hospital last year she isn't taking any chances.

She has been vaccinated against both seasonal and swine flu.

Her daughter Olivia Sunday is among children aged between six months and five who are being vaccinated against swine flu under the campaign to protect people who fall into the at-risk groups.

Julia, who is also mother to Caitlin, seven, said: "Olivia Sunday is having all of her immunisations and the swine flu vaccination is a really important part of keeping your child healthy. "This age group has been identified as the next priority group for the swine flu vaccine because they are more likely to be hospitalised if they fall ill.

"They also have high rates of admission to critical care and, sadly, there have also been some deaths."

She added: "I was particularly poorly with asthma last year and I don't want to go into hospital again, so I am making sure I am protected from seasonal and swine flu as well.

"By being vaccinated we are also helping to protect the rest of our family." Dr Mike Guy, Northumberland GP and medical director for NHS North of Tyne, said it was vital that at-risk groups made sure they got the jab as soon as possible.

"I can't stress enough the importance of having both the swine flu and seasonal flu vaccines as they can save lives for those people who are in the at-risk groups and therefore may be more severely affected by these illnesses," he explained.

"Although the number of antivirals we are giving out to treat swine flu is reducing, some people who have been more severely affected by the symptoms are still in hospital.

"Our immediate priority for the swine vaccine remains the people in at-risk groups including those with long-term health conditions such as asthma or diabetes, pregnant women, household contacts of people with weakened immune systems, health and social care staff, and all young children between the age of six months and five.

"We are strongly advising anyone who is contacted by their GP to take up the offer of the vaccines. Vaccines save lives."

The World Health Organisation believes that the vaccines being used are very useful against pandemic influenza and are very safe.

They have now been used in more than 20 countries and millions of people have received them.

The levels of local side-effects - sore arm, redness, swelling in the arm when you get injected - are similar to those seen with seasonal flu vaccines.

Those who are classed as a priority should be contacted by their GP and invited for a vaccination appointment in the next few weeks. Swine flu at-risk groups include: People aged over six months and under 65 years in current seasonal flu vaccine clinical at-risk groups. All pregnant women.

Household contacts of people with compromised immune systems, for example, people in regular close contact with patients on treatment for cancer.

People aged 65 and over in the current seasonal flu vaccine clinical at-risk groups. This does not include otherwise healthy over-65s, since they appear to have some natural immunity to the virus.

Young children aged between six months and five years old.

People not in an at-risk group who develop flu-like symptoms should use the National Pandemic Flu Service, www.direct.gov.uk/pandemicflu or by calling 0800 151 3100.

CAPTION(S):

CAPTION - Sister Sue Elliott of Wellway Surgery, Olivia Sunday and Julia Young.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Dec 21, 2009
Words:707
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