Why the flu vaccination is so important to me

People might be surprised to hear that when I was 14 I was diagnosed with asthma. My doctor was keen to stress that it shouldn't stop me doing anything I wanted to do - I just had to learn to manage it, know my triggers and take precautions. One of these precautions I feel strongly about is flu vaccination, as having asthma puts me into a clinical 'at risk' group for flu, meaning I'm more susceptible to flu complications including bronchitis and pneumonia. People with other long-term health conditions like diabetes, heart disease and autoimmune conditions also fall into these 'at risk' groups. As an 'at risk' individual who has been getting vaccinated against flu since I was 18, it surprised me that last winter, more than half (51%) of people within the under 65 clinical at-risk groups did not get vaccinated against flu. (1) That's why I'm teaming up with Sanofi Pasteur to help encourage other people in at-risk groups to take the risks of flu seriously and get vaccinated this winter. I know from experience that the consequences of flu can be serious, (2) and even as an athlete with my asthma under control I'm not invincible. When you feel fit and healthy it is easy to think that you don't need to worry about having a flu vaccination. You think that if you are unlucky enough to contract flu, your body will be able to fight it off. But I've had flu many times and it has developed into bronchitis, which I've been told is because of my asthma. In 1993, I missed the trials for the World Cross Country Championships because I was so ill, despite the fact I'd been eating healthily trying to boost my immunity! That taught me about the importance of being vaccinated against flu. I think being vaccinated this year is particularly important given the NHS recently warned that this winter could be a heavy flu season following an outbreak of the virus in Australia and New Zealand. If you fall into an at-risk group like me, you can get vaccinated against flu free of charge via the NHS. (3) Health and social care workers are also offered vaccination for free to help reduce the spread of infection to patients as well as their friends, family and colleagues. If you're not sure if you're eligible for free vaccination speak to your pharmacist, nurse or GP for advice, or for more information visit the NHS website. References 1. Public Health England. Population vaccination coverage (Flu, at risk individuals). Available at: http://fingertips.phe.org.uk/profile/health-protection/data#page/3/gid/1000002/pat/6/par/E12000004/ati/102/are/E06000015/iid/30315/age/226/sex/4 [Accessed 1 Sep. 2017].