freelance journalist, print journalist, online journalist, copywriter, content editor, freelance editor, health and lifestyle, blogger Flu dangers: not worth spending government cash on? | Christine Morgan - Journalist
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I don’t know about you, but I’m certainly enjoying this unseasonally hot weather. It’s hard to believe that it’s almost October – and yet Britain is currently sizzling in the sun. Well, we did have a rubbish summer…

And thanks to the unexpected – but welcome – heatwave, it’s also hard to believe that the flu season is just around the corner. I was reminded about just that when I received a press release from the Department of Health today, which points out that millions of people in at-risk groups should be getting their flu jabs right now.

The release suggests that ‘people are playing Russian roulette with their lives every year by not protecting themselves against seasonal flu’. According to statistics that have just been announced, 87 percent of people say they would get holiday jabs before travelling to tropical countries. But only half of under-65s who were advised to get the seasonal flu jab took it up last year.

And the press release goes on. Last year, it says, 602 people died with flu in the UK, with 70 percent of the deaths occurring in young and middle-aged people.

“A five-minute appointment to have the flu jab could save your life,” warns Professor Dame Sally Davies, the chief medical officer.

But hang on. Didn’t I read the other day that the health secretary Andrew Lansley had, for the second year running, decided running an awareness campaign about flu jabs wasn’t worth the money? At least he has declined to run the campaign, which had been running for years up until last year.

Now I know money is tight, but awareness of flu jabs is obviously far too low. So isn’t the government putting more lives at risk this year?

I suppose it’s up to the press now to do its bit and try to inform people about the availability – and eligibility issues – of flu jabs. So perhaps I should join in.

Certain at-risk groups can get the flu jab for free. This includes pregnant women; the over-65s; people with a long-term condition such as heart or chest problems, liver or kidney disease, asthma or diabetes; people with a neurological condition such as multiple sclerosis or cerebral palsy; and people who are having treatment that may compromise their immune system (ie taking immunosuppressive drugs).

And even if you’re not in one of the at-risk groups, flu jabs are available at many pharmacies for just a few pounds (last year you could get them for under a tenner if you shopped around). It’s a small price to pay for not just getting the flu, but for helping to prevent spreading it to others.

There. And that didn’t cost a penny.