Kirsty Williams AM is urging all those eligible for the free influenza (flu) vaccine to protect themselves and those around them.
Vaccination is the best protection against catching or spreading influenza, which is a debilitating and potentially deadly illness.
Kirsty is joining calls being made by Public Health Wales urging those in at risk groups to make an appointment with their local GP or go to their community pharmacy and get the free flu vaccine soon.
At risk groups include pregnant women, people with certain long-term illnesses, those aged 65 or over and carers.
All children aged two to eight years are also being offered protection with a simple nasal spray flu vaccine – so no needle. Two and three year olds (age on 31 August 2017) will have their nasal spray vaccine at their GP surgery and children in reception class, year one, two, three and four in primary school will be offered their nasal spray vaccine at school.
Kirsty Williams said: “The Beat Flu campaign is underway throughout Wales to offer flu vaccines to individuals most at risk of serious complications from influenza, and my message to them is to make sure it’s at the top of your to-do list this autumn.
“Last year in Wales less than half (47%) of those in at-risk groups under the age of 65 took up their free NHS flu vaccination, and we really need to significantly increase the numbers of people being vaccinated in order to prevent the spread of this largely preventable illness.”
Dr Richard Roberts, Head of the Vaccine Preventable Disease Programme at Public Health Wales, said: “Each year influenza viruses circulate, causing many people to be ill and some to face life-threatening situations. Last year in intensive care units in Wales there were 74 patients with confirmed influenza.
“The influenza viruses change regularly and vaccine protection fades over time, so if you are in a risk group and had the vaccine last year, it is still important to get vaccinated again this year to protect yourself this winter.
“Getting vaccinated against flu every year is the single best way to protect against catching or spreading what is a potentially debilitating illness”.
The flu virus is spread easily via droplets which are sprayed into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Direct contact with contaminated hands or surfaces can also spread infection. It can spread rapidly, especially in closed communities such as hospitals, residential homes and schools.
For more information visit www.beatflu.org