IT’S September and that means we’ll be starting to see headlines about flu season anytime now.
I’ve only ever had it once – a long time ago – but can well remember how utterly dreadful I felt for days on end. Now, when someone in the office or pub tells me they have “a touch of flu” it makes me want to slap them.
Nobody has “a touch” of flu = it. If you have flu you are generally flat on your back, incapable of even opening your eyes, let alone able to hop on a bus to work.
And that’s people who are well. If you have underlying medical conditions or are very young or elderly or pregnant, flu season can be fatal.
Which is why it’s great there are free flu jabs available to so many people.
And why it’s ludicrous if those same people don’t bother to get them.
Last year 20 million people were eligible for the jab. Less than half took up the offer.
All NHS staff are also offered it as a matter of course. Again, take up was less than 70%.
Now I guess there are a number of reasons for this.
Hard-pressed workers – NHS or otherwise – may well balk at the idea of having to take time off they can ill afford.
Others may simply not know or understand that they can have the jab for nothing or how important it might be for their own health and that of others.
And then there’s the fear that having the flu jab will give you the flu – which it won’t. The vaccine doesn’t contain a live virus.
So what’s the answer?
Well, better education for a start. Posters, campaigns, mail-shots – not just to get the message out there to the public but to reinforce its urgency.
At best flu will make you feel like death. At worst it could actually spell it.
That sort of public health campaign will take cash of course, something in short supply in the health service. But surely, it’s better to spend money up-front rather than deal with the later fall-out in the shape of ambulance call-outs and emergency hospital admissions?
Meanwhile, I’d make it compulsory for all NHS staff to have the jab. End of.
And then there is us, the public. We also have to take responsibility for our own health.
You wouldn’t turn down a life-saving operation so why turn down a potentially life-saving needle?
If you qualify for the jab, have the jab.
And have a healthy – and happy – winter.
First published Liverpool Echo, 22 September 2018