NHS leaders in the east of England are urging eligible people to get their free NHS flu vaccine as thousands of people across the country are still in hospital with flu and hundreds in critical care, as levels of flu circulating remains high.
With hospital admission rates for flu currently matching the highest rates in the years just before the COVID-19 pandemic (2019/20 and 2018/19), the NHS is reminding people that it is not too late to get their flu vaccine and get protected. Thousands of sites are offering the vaccine across the country and health leaders in the east of England are urging eligible people to come forward as soon as possible.
Hospitalisation rates are highest for older adults and young children.
Nationally, vaccine uptake in children aged two to three is behind last year’s figures. Only around 40% of children aged 2-3 years old (40.4% of two-year-olds, 42.9% of three-year-olds) have received their flu jab so far this year – down 7% points on last year.
In the east of England, it is estimated that vaccine uptake in children aged two to three is also behind last year’s figures. On average 45.6% of 2-3s in the east of England have received their vaccine so far this year (44.8% of 2 year olds, 46.3% of 3 year olds), compared to 52.1% this time last year (50.8% of 2 year olds, 53.5% of 3 year olds).
Ruth Ashmore, NHS East of England’s executive lead for the vaccination programme, said:
“Flu can spread very easily at pre-schools and nurseries, so boosting the immunity of children aged two to three by getting vaccinated is a vital step in protecting them and their family.
“Across the east of England we’ve seen a significant rise in the number of flu patients, and at recent points there have been more than 100 times the number of flu patients in hospital than last winter.
“Please do come forward for a vaccination, if eligible.”
Pregnant women, especially those who may have missed out as they weren’t pregnant earlier in the flu season, are also encouraged to come forwards for the flu vaccine to protect themselves and their unborn baby.
With high flu levels and the recent return to school and work, there is the potential for flu to spread. Getting the flu vaccine can protect against serious illness and ending up in hospital and also help prevent the spread of the virus onto others.
It is not too late for those that are eligible to get the flu vaccine.
Those aged 50 and over, adults with a long term health condition and pregnant women can make an appointment at their GP surgery or participating pharmacy.
Parents and guardians of children aged 2 and 3 and children in high risk groups can make an appointment through their GP surgery. Secondary school aged children are being vaccinated this month through schools and community clinics. If parents and guardians think their reception and primary school aged children have missed their flu vaccination, they should contact their local school-aged vaccination service or ask at their school if you are unsure.