Melton’s over 65s can get a more potent vaccine for free to protect them this coming flu season.

Health services in the area are gearing up for their annual flu vaccine campaigns following the country’s worst season last year with about 29,000 hospital admissions and 745 influenza-related deaths.

General practitioner Alastair Stark, of Westcare Medical Centre, is encouraging older residents to see their doctors to get the new high potency vaccine next month to ensure they are covered for the coming months.

“It is often a very unpleasant and debilitating illness that lasts seven to 10 days – it’s not just a cold,” Dr Stark said.

“At worst it can be life-threatening, even to healthy young people.

“The vaccines we have are safe, cheap and effective.

“This is a preventable illness.

“We also need to protect the most vulnerable, including the very young, very old or unwell and we can do that by vaccinating not only those people but ourselves.”

Dr Stark said most residents over 65 years are recommended to get a new trivalent vaccine, free from their doctors, to protect them from three strains of the virus.

Children of all ages are also strongly encouraged to have a vaccine nowadays, particularly children under five years who, for the first time, can get a free vaccine, he said.