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Home News centre National Press Releases 2011 Press Releases ›  ‘At risk’ groups urged to get vaccinated before flu starts circulating widely

‘At risk’ groups urged to get vaccinated before flu starts circulating widely

10 November 2011

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) is today reminding all those in a clinical 'at risk' group, who have been invited for flu vaccination by their GP and who have not yet received it, to take up the offer.


Figures from the HPA’s Weekly National Influenza Report published today show that 61 per cent of over 65’s, 16 per cent of pregnant women and 37 per cent of those in a clinical risk group aged under 65 years have been vaccinated to date.

It is not yet known which flu strains will be most common this winter but getting vaccinated now will provide important protection over the coming winter months against the strains that do circulate – including H1N1 ‘swine’ flu. Last winter there were 602 confirmed flu deaths reported to the HPA. Where the strain of flu virus was known, H1N1 was linked to 90 per cent of the confirmed flu deaths. Seven out of 10 of the fatal confirmed flu cases were in an “at risk” group.

Pregnant women have been included as a new risk-group for seasonal flu vaccination since the pandemic as they have a higher risk of hospitalisation and death following flu compared to the general population. Last winter, nine pregnant women were reported to have died following a confirmed flu infection.

Dr Richard Pebody, head of flu surveillance at the HPA said: “The point of flu vaccination is to protect individuals against flu infection. Although the current flu vaccine is not 100 per cent effective, it still provides valuable protection in a significant proportion of those who are vaccinated, depending upon the circulating strain.

“If you are in one of the clinical at risk groups, you still have time to get vaccinated this season. Flu vaccination is an important part of keeping the UK population as healthy as possible each winter.

“Seasonal flu can be very serious and results in between two and five thousand excess deaths each year. GPs are now inviting those in a clinical at-risk group to be vaccinated. Please ensure you take up the offer as soon as possible to reduce your risk of serious complications from flu.

“Very little flu is currently being seen in the UK but those who need to get vaccinated should not delay, as flu is expected to increase as usual during the coming winter months”.

ENDS

Notes to editors:

1. A copy of the weekly HPA flu report can be accessed here http://www.hpa.org.uk/web/HPAweb&HPAwebStandard/HPAweb_C/1287147913271  

2. For a comprehensive Q&A about the flu virus http://www.hpa.org.uk/Topics/InfectiousDiseases/InfectionsAZ/SeasonalInfluenza/InformationForThePublic/influsFrequentlyaskedquestionsoninfluenza/

3. For a full list of at-risk groups http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Flu-jab/Pages/Whyitshouldbedone.aspx  

4. The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine is involved in a Europe-wide collaboration to monitor flu all across the continent, with surveys in the UK, Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland. This survey forms part of the HPA’s weekly flu report. Throughout the flu season, it will provide weekly updates of influenza activity in the UK and across Europe. The flusurvey is a scientific project run by researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine to gather information about influenza epidemics in the UK. It relies on volunteers from England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland to report on their flu-like symptoms from week-to-week. Click here to find out more about the benefits of taking part, what's involved and how to sign-up www.flusurvey.org.uk

5. The Health Protection Agency is an independent UK organisation that was set up by the government in 2003 to protect the public from threats to their health from infectious diseases and environmental hazards. In April 2013, subject to the usual approvals procedures for establishing new bodies, the Health Protection Agency will become part of a new organisation called Public Health England, an executive agency of the Department of Health. To find out more, visit our website: www.hpa.org.uk

6. For more information please contact the HPA press office at Colindale on 020 8327 7901 or email colindale-pressoffice@hpa.org.uk . Out of hours the duty press officer can be contacted on 020 8200 4400.
 

Last reviewed: 10 November 2011