Flu jab take-up is too low, the chief medical officer has warned, amid concerns that the failure of last year’s vaccine has put people off.
Prof Dame Sally Davies urged those eligible to come forward, amid rising levels of flu across the country as winter deepens.
Last year winter deaths hit a 42-year high, after the flu jab failed to work in the vast majority of cases.
Officials stressed that this year’s vaccination is a good match – but fear some patients may have been deterred by the failings last winter.
Take-up is particularly low among adults with chronic conditions such as asthma and diabetes below the age of 65. These groups are particularly susceptible to the main strain in circulation this year- A (H1N1), also known as swine flu.
In the last two weeks the number of patients seeing GPs about flu has more than doubled, while the number of cases treated in intensive care units is as bad as this time last year, when the NHS had the worst winter crisis on record.
Just 45.7 per cent of adults under 65 with a chronic health condition have had the jab, compared with 46.9 per cent this time last year. And among over 65s, uptake is 70.5 per cent, compared with 71.3 per cent last year.
New types of vaccines are being offered this year, but the scramble to get hold of stocks meant GPs were asked to delay offering the jabs to some elderly patients.
Dame Sally warned flu can be deadly. She said: “It’s getting colder and flu is going around, but it is not too late to get the jab – please get in touch with your GP or pharmacist urgently to get the free flu vaccine. The vaccine takes less than 30 seconds, but flu could leave you bedridden for days, or even in hospital. Everyone in an at-risk group and all adults over 65 can get the vaccine – it is easy to check if you are eligible online.”