FLU vaccine stocks for over 65s are now fully available – meaning anyone who still needs the jab can get it before flu season gets underway.

Irene Shepherd, practice nurse at Hopwood House Practice and Governing Body Nurse for NHS Oldham CCG, is encouraging older people to sort their free flu jab and get protected before winter kicks in.

The jab is available at GP surgeries and pharmacies and all those which ordered stocks of the adjuvanted trivalent flu vaccine, or aTIV, have now taken delivery.

"Rates of flu cases are currently very low, but we are expecting flu season to properly start to hit in the next few weeks," said Irene.

"This year the aTIV vaccination has been developed especially for older people, and is deemed 'the most effective flu vaccination in the world'. It's certainly the best possible way for people to protect themselves and the people around them."

She added: "Around 274,000 doses of aTiV have been ordered by Greater Manchester pharmacies and GP surgeries, with surplus doses available.

"The current uptake rate for vaccinations in those aged 65 or over in Oldham is currently around 57%, but we are keen to see an increase in that figure so that we know as many people as possible have been protected."

The NHS is also providing flu vaccinations for other at-risk groups such as pregnant women and people with long-term conditions, as well as for NHS and care staff.

There is also a nasal spray, which works better in younger people, and is free of charge for children.

In Oldham the campaign to encourage people in at-risk groups to take up the flu jab offer is in full swing, including social media advertising, posters and leaflets into GP practices and health centres.

Patients and residents may also have caught sight of Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership's 'Matilda Challenge' video designed to encourage people to take all the necessary healthcare precautions.

It includes including stocking up on over-the-counter medicines for winter illnesses and using the right services, whether that's your local pharmacy or your local GP practice, which may be offering extended hours appointments at their location or one close by.

You can watch the video by copying this link: //goo.gl/1DgqeH.

Other initiatives have included a 'fluathon' where GP surgeries organised extra sessions for two and three-year-olds to be vaccinated – Irene's practice took part, vaccinating dozens of children in a matter of hours.

"After last year's extremely difficult flu season the message that flu is much, much worse than a bad cold is out there," said Irene.

"It's something to take very seriously.

"Catching flu at any age can make you very ill, and can lead to hospitalisation and in the worst cases, death.

"More vaccines than ever before are now available and I strongly encourage everyone in a vulnerable group or who has a family member who meets this criteria to contact their GP or pharmacy and get their jab booked in."

Pensioner David Ashley, aged had his flu vaccination at the Hopwood House Surgery in Oldham.

After catching flu in his 50s and being bedridden for more than a week, he vowed "never again" and has booked in for his jab every year at the first opportunity.

David said: "Like a lot of people I didn't know how bad having the flu was until I actually caught it myself; me and my wife were ill for more than a week and not quite right for weeks afterwards.

"Since then I have never missed a flu vaccination. Given that it's no hassle at all and also free once you're 65 why wouldn't you do it?"

Find out more about the flu vaccination at NHS.net/fluvaccination.