The flu vaccine is free for at risk groups including pregnant women, children aged 2 and 3 as well as school children in reception to year 5, people under 65 with long-term health conditions and those aged 65 and over. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Dr Smita Hirani from The Microfaculty Surgery in Chingford is encouraging all at risk groups from South Asian communities to speak to their GP, pharmacist or midwife before the end of November about the flu vaccine to protect themselves and their families before the flu season takes hold.

The flu vaccine is free for at risk groups including pregnant women, children aged 2 and 3 as well as school children in reception to year 5, people under 65 with long-term health conditions and those aged 65 and over.

Dr Smita Hirani said “Flu is a serious illness that could lead to people being admitted into hospital, permanent disability or even death.”

“If children get the flu they have the same symptoms as adults – including fever, chills, aching muscles, headaches and a sore throat. Some children also develop a very high fever and complications such as pneumonia and bronchitis which may require treatment in hospital.”

Dr Smita Hirani

“Also, when children are ill they also tend to spread infection more to other vulnerable family members, such as grandparents, so protecting them is a good way to protect the rest of the family too.”

“Pregnancy naturally weakens the body’s immune system, and as a result flu can cause serious complications for both the mother and her unborn baby. We know that getting flu during pregnancy can cause miscarriage or the baby being born prematurely or with a low birthweight; getting the flu vaccine reduces these risks.

The vaccination also helps protect the baby who will continue to have some immunity to flu during the first few months of life.”

“I’ve had the flu vaccine during my pregnancy, it was an easy decision for me to make knowing the consequences of not having the vaccine would have on me and my child if I caught the flu. When my daughter, turns 2 I won’t hesitate in allowing him to have the flu nasal spray vaccination. It’s quick, effective and a painless alternative to needles.”

“Flu on top of underlying health conditions such as diabetes, heart, kidney or liver disease can increase the chances of serious health complications and even a hospital visit. Similarly, we also know that people over 65 are more likely to catch and have complications from flu.”

“I believe that getting the vaccine is the best way to help protect against catching flu. So, I’d really encourage South Asians from the at risk groups to get the flu vaccine. It’s free because your family needs it.”

“I’d also encourage parents of children in reception and school years 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 to give permission for their children to receive the free nasal spray vaccination as children in these year groups will be offered the vaccination at school.”

Visit www.nhs.uk/fluvaccine for more information