Immunisations, also called vaccinations, are a very effective and safe way to protect both children and adults from a range of avoidable infectious diseases that would otherwise often cause severe illness, lasting disability or death. There is a national schedule for all immunisation programmes and, in addition, the NHS in Enfield provides a targeted vaccination programme against TB and hepatitis B for those at greater risk.
Reducing the risk of developing health problems
You are more vulnerable to developing health problems if you have long-term health conditions or are over 65. If you belong to one of these groups, you should make sure you have regular check-ups and vaccinations. Your doctor will be able to advise you about these.
If you decide not to vaccinate yourself or your child, you will put yourselves at risk of catching a range of potentially serious diseases, and passing them on to vulnerable children and adults. The science is clear and research continues to show that having a vaccination is much safer than not having one. Adults should check if they or their child fall into one of the ‘at risk’ groups that requires immunisation.
Vaccinations for ‘at risk’ adults
There are no vaccinations that are routinely offered on the NHS to all adults. However, there are several vaccinations that are available on the NHS to adults over 65 and in certain ‘at risk’ groups.
The flu season is from September to January. Influenza is a potentially-life threatening illness and not just a “bad cold”. People in the following groups need vaccinations against it and this will not just help protect them, but also those around them.
Flu can affect anyone but if you have a long-term health condition the effects of flu can make it worse even if the condition is well managed and you normally feel well. You should have the free flu vaccine if you are:
- pregnant or have a long term condition such as:
- a heart problem
- a chest complaint or breathing difficulties, including bronchitis, emphysema or severe asthma
- a kidney disease
- lowered immunity due to disease or treatment (such as steroid medication or cancer treatment)
- liver disease
- had a stroke or a transient ischaemic attack (TIA)
- a neurological condition, eg multiple sclerosis (MS), cerebral palsy
- a learning disability
- a problem with your spleen, eg sickle cell disease, or you have had your spleen removed
- are seriously overweight (BMI of 40 and above).
People on the NHS Shielded Patient List for COVID-19 are all eligible for a free flu vaccine and it is really important this year that they receive it.
This list of conditions isn’t definitive. It’s always an issue of clinical judgement. Your GP can assess you to take into account the risk of flu making any underlying illness you may have worse, as well as your risk of serious illness from flu itself.
Who should consider having a flu vaccination?
All those who have any condition listed above, or who are:
- aged 65 years or over
- living in a residential or nursing home
- the main carer of an older or disabled person
- a household contact of someone on the NHS Shielded Patient List
- a front-line health or social care worker
- children of a certain age (see section below).
Children eligible for a free flu vaccination each year are:
- children aged two or three years old (on 31 August of current flu season)
- all primary school-aged children
- all year 7 secondary school-aged children
- children with a health condition that puts them at greater risk from flu
- children who live with someone who is on the NHS Shielded Patient List.
Pneumococcal (PPV) vaccine
The Pneumococcal (PPV) vaccine is offered by the NHS to help protect against pneumococcal infections which can cause a range of diseases, including pneumonia and meningitis.
Who needs it:
- People aged 65 and over.
- People with a long-term health condition.
If you are in one of these ‘at risk’ groups, contact your GP to arrange a vaccination.
The NHS has more on the pneumococcal vaccine.
From September 1 2015, the shingles vaccine has been offered routinely to people aged 70 and, as a catch up, to those aged 78. This vaccine is available for free on the NHS. The vaccine is not available on the NHS if you are aged over 80.
The NHS has more on the shingles vaccine.
Hepatitis B (hep B) vaccine
The vaccine protects against hepatitis B. Hepatitis B vaccination isn’t routinely available as part of the NHS vaccination schedule. It’s only offered to those thought to be at increased risk of hepatitis B or its complications.
People at risk of hepatitis B – and who should therefore consider vaccination – are:
- injecting drug users
- people who change sexual partners frequently
- sexually active homosexual men
- sex workers
- babies born to infected mothers
- people with any form of liver disease or chronic kidney disease
- people travelling to high-risk countries
- people who work somewhere that places them at risk of contact with blood or body fluids, such as nurses, prison staff, doctors, dentists and laboratory staff
If you’re in an ‘at risk’ group, contact your GP, your local sexual health clinic or a GUM clinic to get a hepatitis B vaccine.
The NHS has more on the hep B vaccine.
If you are planning on travelling, you should also consider travel vaccinations appropriate for the countries you are visiting.
The NHS has more on travel vaccines.