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​Residents in the borough of Richmond are encouraged not to put off flu vaccinations ahead of winter​

If you or someone you care for is eligible for a free flu vaccination, don't wait for winter to arrive before making an appointment, says NHS Richmond Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

GPs and community pharmacists can provide the vaccination, which is the safest way to help protect against flu.

Those eligible for free vaccinations include people aged 65 years and older, people with long-term conditions such as diabetes or asthma, pregnant women and children aged 2­-4 years and those in primary school years 1-3.

Dr Graham Lewis, local GP and Chair at the CCG, emphasised that if you're eligible for a free vaccine, it's because you need it.

He said: "Flu can lead to some really serious complications in people whose immune systems may be vulnerable. There are myths every year that circulate about the flu vaccine, but as a GP I can honestly say that it's the best protection you can get against catching flu. It is clinically safe, effective and developed based on the latest available research.

"Children, pregnant women, anyone aged 65 and over or who people who have a long-term health condition, are all eligible to get the vaccination free on the NHS."

For most healthy people, having flu usually means spending a few days in bed with fever, chills, headaches and aches and pains in their joints. However, people who are more susceptible to the effects of flu can end up with infections like bronchitis and pneumonia, which can put them in hospital.

This year the vaccination programme is being extended to those in school year three, offering more than four million children in England protection against flu which is around 600,000 more than last year.

As well as offering protection to these children aged two to seven years, it will help reduce the spread of this infection to the most vulnerable in the community, particularly younger children, the elderly and those with long-term conditions.

Ask at your GP practice or community pharmacy for more information.