Flu vaccinations available from Friday

Vaccination needle
Vaccinations are encouraged for vulnerable groups

The annual French anti-flu campaign will begin tomorrow, October 6, with susceptible groups encouraged to be vaccinated as soon as possible.

People over the age of 65 and those suffering from a chronic illness such as diabetes, respiratory issues or heart problems are encouraged to get the vaccine, as are pregnant women, obese people, and the families of babies under six months old, the national French health body L’Assurance Maladie has said.

The vaccine is free of charge for people in these susceptible groups.

L’Assurance Maladie will send personal invitations and vouchers for free vaccines to people in affected groups with the exception of pregnant women, the obese and those with young babies, who are harder to identify on healthcare databases.

Anyone receiving a voucher for the first time should take this to their doctor who will provide a prescription for the vaccine if he or she feels it is needed. Those who have had the vaccine in previous years can go straight to a pharmacy with the voucher.

Pregnant women, those with babies under six months old and obese people should talk to their doctor or midwife, who can print a voucher from the health insurance website to take to a pharmacy.

The vaccine can then be administered by a doctor, a nurse or a midwife.

Certain pharmacists in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes and Nouvelle Aquitaine will also be allowed to give the vaccine to adults who have previously been vaccinated, except pregnant women, as part of a trial.

It is impossible to predict when the flu season will begin and, as it takes a fortnight for the vaccine to become effective, the sooner people are vaccinated the better, L’Assurance Maladie said.

Flu vaccination uptake is still low in France, with only around 47% of those in at-risk groups vaccinated.

Other advice for avoiding the flu includes regular handwashing, covering your mouth when coughing, and throwing tissues away as soon as they have been used.

Running from October 6, 2017 until January 31, 2018, the campaign aims to encourage more uptake of the vaccine by the public and by health workers. An annual health conference held in Paris this week offered vaccinations on the spot to attendees, noting that there is a low uptake among health professionals generally.

Side effects of the vaccine may include pain at the site of the injection, general muscle pain, headaches and mild fever but these will pass quickly. Allergic reactions are extremely rare, L’Assurance Maladie said.

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