The number of people receiving their flu jabs continues to drop, leaving health chiefs concerned about a tough winter
As reported by The Express, the number of people in England receiving their flu jab has plummeted.
Despite a Public Health England campaign urging at-risk groups to get the vaccination, and a new and more effective version of it now available, jab uptake for over-65s sits at 65.4% this year – a drop from last year’s 69.1%.
The uptake for pregnant women has been 40.8%, down from 43.1%.
Deliveries of the new formula were phased this year, leading some surgeries to run out between deliveries; this may have discouraged some patients from receiving their jab.
Caroline Abrahams, of Age UK, said: “As we age our immune system becomes less resilient to flu and the consequences can be very serious indeed.
“The flu jab is free for anyone 65 and over and it’s important all older people make sure they protect themselves.
“We know delays in rolling out the vaccination programme this year was very worrying for some older people. However, it’s essential not to let it slide or get put off. Flu is often at its peak in January and February so it is still worthwhile getting the jab, even if that’s later than usual in some areas.
“Patients should keep in touch with their GP practice or local pharmacy so they can be booked in for their vaccination at the earliest opportunity.”
15,000 people died of flu last year – a number that could rise as less people are vaccinated. Many frontline NHS workers are also refusing to have their jab, creating further risk.
Professor Jane Cummings said: “I am not going to say [staff are] irresponsible because there will be many reasons why people may choose not to take a vaccine. But our expectation is it should be made as easy as possible for them and they should be given absolutely every opportunity to do that. Some people think the vaccine gives them flu, which is course it doesn’t
“The one thing absolutely critical is that anything up to 50 per cent of staff may have the flu virus but be asymptomatic – they may not feel ill and they may not be aware they are carrying it.
“All of us who are clinicians have a duty of care to our patients. We are trying to reduce some of those myths.”
Health chiefs have said that the vaccine could well prevent more than 30,000 unnecessary GP consultations, 700 hospital deaths and 2,000 admissions.
Public Health England medical director, Professor Paul Cosford, said: “Early indications suggest the flu vaccines are well matched to the strains of flu likely to circulate this year.”
He added: “It is even more important than ever that all those eligible take up the offer of the flu vaccine, especially before Christmas when many people will be gathering together, with the added risk of spreading infection that this brings.”