High-risk groups in Scotland urged to get flu vaccine
The Scottish government has urged 'at risk' groups including pregnant women to get vaccinated against the flu virus as early as possible.
Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon met with NHS staff at Glasgow's Royal Infirmary to launch Flu Awareness Week.
The vaccine, which is said to protect against three strains of influenza, including H1N1, is now available.
The government said 63 people were reported to have died from the flu virus in Scotland last year.
More than a million doses of seasonal flu vaccine are made for those in Scotland who need it each year.
People with an existing medical condition, pregnant women, people aged 65 years and over, front-line NH staff and unpaid carers are all eligible to receive the flu vaccine.
Ms Sturgeon said: "For those at risk, the complications of seasonal flu can be deadly.
"The only way to protect yourself is to get the jag and the earlier the better as this will stop flu from spreading to others who might be at risk."
The health secretary met with Lynne Brew who caught flu while pregnant last year and became seriously ill.
Ms Sturgeon said: "It is very important that pregnant women come forward for the jag.
"We know they are more likely to suffer serious complications if they catch flu because of changes to their immune system.
"So if you're pregnant, protect yourself and your baby from flu by getting the jag."
As at the end of March 2011, estimated vaccine uptake in pregnant women with no risk factor was 64.9%.
She added that only about 26% of NHS front line staff were vaccinated during last year's flu season.
"We want to see many more of our nurses, doctors and midwives come forward this year, to protect themselves and their patients," she said.
An estimated 76.2% of over 65s and 56.3% of those under 65 with a health condition were also vaccinated.
As in previous years, personalised letters are to be sent by the NHS to everyone aged 65 and over inviting them for vaccination.
Dr Dean Marshall, chairman of the BMA's Scottish General Practitioners Committee, said: "For most of us, flu makes us feel miserable, but doesn't actually pose any serious risks to our health.
"Unfortunately, for the more vulnerable, it can cause serious complications and even lead to death.
''It is important that the flu campaign reaches as many vulnerable and 'at-risk' people as possible because it is inevitable that there will be cases of flu this winter."