South West Bedfordshire MP Andrew Selous has urged those in South West Bedfordshire who are at risk of getting flu to get their free vaccine jab before winter sets in as it emerged that 31,919 missed out on protection last year across Central Bedfordshire.
Flu vaccination rates continue to climb across the country, but remain lower than ideal in many areas.
Andrew Selous’s call comes as the Chief Medical Officer warned last week that flu and complications associated with it cause 8,000 deaths on average a year in England – around 6,000 of which are people with existing heart and lung conditions.
And official figures show that just under 2.9m bed days were lost to flu and pneumonia last year in English hospitals, up almost 280,000 from the previous year – an 11% increase.
In the Central Bedfordshire area last year:
- 12,654 older people missed out on their jab, and among over-65s with long-term condition which make them more vulnerable to the effects of flu, just 48.6% were vaccinated.
- A further 13,933 working age people with long-term conditions also didn’t get the vaccine.
- Thousands of young children (2-4 year olds) also didn’t get the vaccine, including 113 who were classed as being at greater risk.
- 1319 pregnant women with no long-term conditions and 97 pregnant women with long-term conditions also didn’t get protected.
Mr Selous said: “Getting the flu can be bad enough for even the fittest of us, but for older people and those with long-term conditions in particular it can cause serious health problems.
“Getting the flu jab is free and easy, and offers the best chance of avoiding the flu that we have. I’d therefore urge all those eligible – including all care home staff for the first time – to speak to your GP or local pharmacist and get your vaccination booked in before the cold weather sets in.”
This year, more people than ever – around 21 million – will be offered the vaccination. Children in school year 4 will be offered the vaccine for the first time and children over age 4 in reception year can get their vaccine in school.
A £10m programme will also see a free vaccination offered to all care home workers via their GP or pharmacist. Official figures show that older people are three times as likely to be admitted to hospital with flu if they live in a care home, with emergency flu and pneumonia admissions from care homes jumping by 16% last year alone to around 29,000.
The national drive marks the start of the Public Health England and NHS England’s joint Stay Well This Winter campaign, which helps the most vulnerable people prepare for winter and avoid having to visit hospital due to common winter illnesses.
NHS England’s National Medical Director for Acute Care, Professor Keith Willett, said: “Hospitals and GPs are preparing intensively for this winter, and we would remind people of the importance of having a flu vaccination. There are 21 million people eligible this year, but last year eight million people missed out and that is something we can all definitely change.”
More information on eligibility for the flu jab, and other tips on staying well this winter, can be found at www.nhs.uk/staywell