Over three hundred thousand people get free flu vaccine but thousands still at risk in Kent and Medway

NHS England is again urging people to take steps to stay well this winter and get their flu vaccination.

Almost 320,000 thousand adults and children have already had the vaccine in Kent and Medway. But many people in vulnerable at risk groups have still not been vaccinated.

The latest figures released by Public Health England for the period from 1 September until the end of November 2016 show that more than 277,000 people have still not had their flu vaccine, leaving themselves at risk from the potentially fatal risk the virus poses.

Priority at-risk groups eligible for the free vaccine include those aged over 65, those under 65 with a long term health condition, pregnant women and children aged from two up to five-years-old.

Here in the Kent and Medway area:

  • The best vaccination uptake is among those aged over 65with around 65 percent of those eligible receiving the jab. But that means over 120,000 over 65s have not been vaccinated.
  • 41% of people aged below 65 but who have a long-term condition, such as heart or liver disease which puts them at particular risk from flu have had the jab. Over 100,000 people have still not protected themselves.
  • 39 percent of pregnant womenhave received their free vaccination. But over 9,000 women have not been vaccinated, putting themselves and their child at serious risk.  The vaccine protects the mother while pregnant from developing serious complications associated with flu, but also provides protection for their newborn baby in their early months when born.
  • 31% of children aged between two and up to five-years-oldhave been vaccinated, an increase of more than 4% on last year. But this means parents of over 46,000 children have still not taken steps to protect their child and those around them from the threat of flu.  Young children are both vulnerable to the effects of flu but can also spread the virus to others.

Dr John Rodriguez, Consultant in Public Health, Kent and Medway Screening and Immunisation Lead, said:

“There are many people who would benefit who are still not protecting themselves by being vaccinated. It is not too late to get the vaccine and it remains the best way for those who are at the highest risk to protect themselves from the severe effects of the ‘flu virus.

“Those in these key at-risk groups are eligible for a free vaccination. This includes older people and pregnant women, as well as those people with health conditions, even those that are well managed. Conditions include asthma, diabetes, heart, lung, liver and renal dieses, those with weakened immune systems. Young children from two, up to five-years-old, should also be protected.

“Anyone in these groups who hasn’t yet had the vaccine can receive it for free through their GP practice, but also your local high street pharmacist so it is quick and easy to arrange.”

Kent County Council Deputy Director of Public Health, Allison Duggal said:

“It is important that parents make sure children are protected as they can easily spread the illness among their friends and family. In the worst cases, seasonal flu can result in a stay in hospital, and it can even be fatal. If you are pregnant, over the age of 65 or have a long-term condition such as asthma, diabetes, respiratory problems and kidney and liver disease, then we urge you to get your free jab from your GP or local pharmacist.”

Vaccination against the flu virus is just one strand of the wider NHS Stay Well this Winter campaign advising the public on how to avoid common illness during winter.

The simple steps are to:

  • Make sure you get the flu jab
  • Keep yourself warm – heat your home to least 18 degrees C (or 65F) if you can
  • Get help from your pharmacist quickly, if you start to feel unwell, even if it’s just a cough or a cold, before it gets more serious
  • Keep stocked up on your prescription medicines
  • Always take your prescribed medicines as directed
  • Use NHS Choices, call 111 or visit your local pharmacist for advice in a non-emergency
  • Check up on those more vulnerable – family, friends and neighbours

Mum to be Claire Smith is vaccinated at Pelham Medical Practice in Gravesend.

Pensioner Clifford White is vaccinated at The Mote Medical Practice in Loose.