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People with a learning disability urged to protect themselves from flu

15 Oct 2020by lindseyh

People who have a learning disability are being encouraged to get the flu jab this winter, as they have a higher risk of becoming seriously ill from the virus.

The vaccination is available for free to anybody who has a learning disability. This is because they have a higher chance of developing complications such as bronchitis or pneumonia if they catch flu.

Individuals should make sure they are on their GP’s learning disability register to access the best care, including the important annual health check which can be done at the same time as the jab.

Steven lives in Dudley and has a learning disability. When asked why he’s getting the flu jab, he said: “You do what you can to stay healthy. It is really important to keep yourself as healthy as you can.”

Carers of anyone with a learning disability are also entitled to free vaccination, and they should register as a carer at their GP practice to ensure they receive their flu clinic invite.

Susan Brady, Head of Nursing, Learning Disabilities, at Black Country Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Flu is a very unpleasant illness. The symptoms can be miserable for many of us, but it can lead to more serious complications for those in certain clinical ‘at risk’ groups, of which having a learning disability is one.

“It’s a terribly sad fact that people with a learning disability die an average of 20 years earlier than other people. In a recent NHS review of the reasons for this, respiratory conditions were a leading cause. This is why it’s so important for people who have a learning disability, and their carers, to protect themselves against flu.

“I’d urge people to make sure they get vaccinated as soon as possible this winter, and also ask your GP if they can do your annual health check, which is another important way to look after your health.”

The vaccine offers the best level of protection from the flu virus, and it’s important to have it every year because the flu virus strain changes each year. Eligible people should receive an invitation from their GP, but if you’re unsure if you qualify you can contact your surgery.