If you are eligible for the flu vaccine this year - get ready to get it - that is the advice from family doctors and Cumbria’s director of public health.

Cumbria’s flu vaccination programme is a vital part of keeping people in our communities safe this winter; having a flu jab doesn’t just protect you; it also protects those around you.

This year there is likely to be a change to the way you receive your flu vaccine as health teams have to factor in social distancing and infection prevention measures to keep people safe.

Some surgeries will be offering drive through options, using local community centres or calling people for time specific appointments, rather than the traditional drop-in clinics.

Practices are now contacting eligible patients and calling them for their flu vaccine - this could be by letter, text or phone.

Doctors are urging patients who usually get called for the flu jab to be ready and to be clear about how and when they will get it this year.

Dr Mandy Boardman, lead GP at NHS North Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group, said: "“Lots of thought and care has been put into planning this year’s vaccination programme by our primary care teams. If you are contacted by your surgery you will be given instructions on the infection prevention measures each practice has put in place to keep everyone safe.

“So for some this might mean a drive through clinic and for others it might mean a specific slot at your practice. However and wherever you get your jab you will be expected to wear a face covering and sanitise your hands thoroughly.”

Cumbria County Council’s Director of Public Health, Colin Cox, said: “We usually have a good take up of the flu vaccine in Cumbria and we hope to see that again this year. There are also some new groups who are receiving the vaccine for the first time, including members of households where people were shielding and pupils in Year 7 at secondary school.

“Later in the year we’ll also be looking to extend the vaccine to the over 50s, but it is important we concentrate our initial efforts on those who are most clinically vulnerable."

While flu can cause mild illness in most people, some people are more likely to develop potentially serious complications such as bronchitis and pneumonia. The flu vaccine helps protect family, friends and people you care for who may be vulnerable.