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Jags for Jags

02/10/2012

Jags players are helping spread the message to people at risk to get the flu jag.

Health Secretary Alex Neil was at Firhill with Partick Thistle player Stephen O’ Donnell to kick off the annual flu campaign.

Stephen suffered from a heart condition and is keen to encourage others to do all they can to look after their health.

The target groups for this year’s flu vaccine, now available in GP practices, are:

• People under 65 with an underlying medical condition;
• People aged 65 and over;
• Pregnant women;
• Health and social care workers;
• Unpaid carers, including young carers.

Health Secretary Alex Neil said:

“Flu is a serious illness and a flu vaccine is the only way to be protected. The vaccine is safe, quick and for those most at risk, free from the GP. Getting the jag now will protect you over the winter and stop flu spreading to others.

“The at risk groups are those most likely to suffer serious consequences of flu. Pregnant women are more likely to suffer serious complications if they catch flu, so pregnant women can protect themselves and their unborn baby by getting the jag. Carers also play a very important role in society and should get the jag. People over 65 will get a letter from the GP inviting them to get the vaccine.

"Only around 30 per cent of NHS frontline staff got the vaccine last year and I want to see many more of our nurses, doctors and midwives come forward. We have asked health boards to up their game and help more staff get vaccinated to protect themselves and patients.”

20 year old Stephen O’Donnell, who suffered from a heart condition, earlier in his career said:

“Your health is so important. I was at Aberdeen when I first felt palpitations - I ignored them at first but as soon as I started running my heart started racing and I felt sick I had to stop training. I spoke to the physio and the club doctor and they started doing tests. While that was going on I transferred to Celtic and they continued the investigation. I went for an ECG and at that point, when I was 17, I was told I would never play again. I didn’t train for a couple of months then had an ECG and it came back more positive.

“I was wired up with a heart monitor every time I trained and at one point it registered 230 beats per minute. Within a month I was in hospital for an operation. I was back training within a week and haven’t had any problems since.

“The whole experience made me realise how important your health is and I don’t want to ever go through anything like that again. That’s the reason I get the flu jab every year. I know it will help protect me. I’m lucky that my condition was discovered and dealt with, so it’s really important people with underlying health conditions do all they can to keep themselves healthy and get the free flu jab.”

Partick Thistle physio Kenny Crichton, who has had to spend time in hospital due to flu  added:

“As physio of a football team you’re around athletes all the time and I knew I didn’t feel quite right, but I couldn’t take the time off work. We travelled away up to Inverness for a game and that’s when it really hit me. I was on the pitch treating one of the players and I was sick.

“Our club doctor was really worried about me and on the Sunday he came to see me at my house and told me I had to be hospitalised. I spent two days in hospital on a drip, needed three weeks off work and then it took me around six to eight weeks to fully recover. I genuinely have never felt worse in my life, it might sound dramatic but at one point I really thought I was going to die.

“Before that happened to me I had never had the flu jab, never even considered it - now I have it every year and I’ve never been ill again.”

For more information on flu see www.immunisationscotland.org.uk, or call NHS Inform on 0800 22 44 88.

Advice on who should receive the free flu vaccination is provided every year by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation. The groups identified as at risk remain unchanged from last year.

Scotland continues to have among the highest uptake rates across the UK. Around one million people are vaccinated in Scotland each year. Last year, around 60 per cent of people under 65 in at risk groups were vaccinated, while 76.6 per cent over 65s were vaccinated.

People not eligible for a free vaccination can get the vaccine in many high street pharmacies for a small fee.