Northamptonshire residents who are caring for people who are elderly, ill or disabled are being urged to get a free flu jab for themselves.
Carers are one of the top priority groups for getting vaccinated against flu as they look after some of the most vulnerable, at risk groups, for example older people and those with long-term health conditions. If the carer becomes ill, they would not be able to carry on caring as effectively.
Many carers last winter did not take the opportunity to have a free flu jab, despite making arrangements for their loved ones to have theirs.
Mark Major, director of Northamptonshire Carers, said: “As winter approaches, we are advising carers to have their free flu jab to help reduce the risk to their own health — as well as the health of the person they care for.
“Carers tend to put themselves last – it’s all about the person they care for – but it’s vital that when it comes to flu they put themselves first. Many unpaid carers play such a vital role in the care of friends and relatives, but they can put their own health at risk by not taking up the offer of a free flu jab. Some carers dismiss the flu as not serious enough to worry about or often simply feel they do not have enough time and many carers simply do not realise that they are eligible for a free flu jab.”
Beverley Johnson, carer assessment and support worker at Northamptonshire Carers has recently had her flu jab.
“Five years ago I had flu and I just couldn’t get out of bed for over a week I was so unwell. I couldn’t look after my children, walk the dogs or do anything. I don’t want to carry flu into people’s homes when I see them. So it’s all about protecting vulnerable people from catching the flu.”
Gemma Kaife, who also works for Northamptonshire Carers, added: “Anyone who has a chronic long term condition should definitely have the flu jab and especially our carers so we can support each other and limit our contact with flu.”
Dr Matthew Davies, medical director at NHS Nene Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Every winter, many unpaid carers miss out on a free flu jab, despite the fact they’re entitled to request one if they’re the main carer for someone elderly, ill or disabled, and whose health would be at risk if they fell ill.
“If a carer gets the flu and becomes too unwell to care, there may be no-one else who can step in and look after the person they care for, and this can have major knock-on effects. Also, if the carer is looking after someone with a lowered immune system, they could pass the virus on to the person they care for, even if the person they look after has had a flu jab.”
"As well as ensuring they do not pass on flu to the person they are caring for, many carers accompany them to hospital and GP appointments where there are other vulnerable people, so having the flu jab also protects the wider community."