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Caithness News Bulletins September 2003

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Free Flu Jab Programme Launched 29 September 03

Scotland's annual winter flu campaign was launched by the Health Minister today with the aim of achieving over 70 per cent uptake for a second year.

The Don't Let The Flu Bug Bite campaign encourages everyone aged 65 and over, and those under 65 with long term medical complaints, to come forward for their free jab to protect them from the influenza virus this winter.

This year's campaign aims to build on the high level of uptake achieved over the last few years and protect those most vulnerable against the complications of flu this winter.

Last year, uptake for 65s and over reached the new 70 per cent target which will also apply this winter. Those over 65 will also be offered pneumococcal vaccination to protect them against invasive pneumococcal infection which can cause severe forms of pneumonia, septicaemia and meningitis.

Launching the annual vaccination programme, Mr Chisholm warned against public complacency about flu.

He said: "After several winters of relatively low levels of flu, people need to be aware that they need to protect themselves against flu again this year. This is an annual vaccination and to achieve protection this year it is vital for everyone in the targeted groups to come forward for their free flu jab.

"We are targeting around 800,000 Scots aged 65 and over and those with longer term medical complaints such as diabetes, asthma and kidney disease through this year's campaign. And, of course, this time we are offering those aged 65 and over a vaccine against invasive pneumococcal disease.

In order to maximise uptake and minimise any inconvenience to patients, the influenza and the pneumococcal vaccines will be offered and administered at the same time - from October to mid-December.

Individual letters will be sent to all those eligible for immunisation on age grounds. Flu co-ordinators for each NHS board area will be issuing letters to those eligible to receive free immunisation over the next few weeks. The letter will remind them of their eligibility and will urge them to contact their GP practice if they do not hear about an appointment for immunisation by late October.

The Executive's integrated publicity campaigns for flu and pneumococcal immunisation include TV and press advertisements which will run from the end of September to early December. The Executive has also developed public information leaflets and resources for health professionals.

The cost of the flu vaccine for the immunisation programme is around 3 million. Associated Payments to GPs will total 7 million. The Executive's integrated publicity campaigns for flu and pneumococcal immunisation will cost 0.8 million in total.