Flu vaccine take-up well below UK target

The number of young children and pregnant women in Hastings and Rother being vaccinated against flu is well below the national target, new figures have revealed.

Just 32.3 per cent of under 3s in the area were vaccinated against the virus between September 2013 and January 2014 - falling far short of the Department of Health’s national target of 75 per cent.

And Hastings and Rother is also bottom of the league in East Sussex, lagging behind High Weald, Lewes and Havens (39.5 per cent) and Eastbourne, Hailsham and Seaford (36.9 per cent).

The vaccine is also being shunned by pregnant women, with just 33.8 per cent in Hastings and Rother taking it up - once again way below the 75 per cent national target.

But the figures look more positive for adults aged 65 and over, with a 72.9 per cent take-up rate, with the figure standing at 54.5 per cent for people aged over 65 in at-risk groups.

Now public health officials are urging those at risk to get themselves protected.

Older people, the very young, pregnant women and those with a long-term health condition, who are particularly at risk of suffering serious effects of flu, qualify for free flu jabs on the NHS. Carers and frontline health and social care workers are also urged to get themselves vaccinated to protect themselves and those around them.

Cynthia Lyons, East Sussex acting director of public health, said: “Flu is an unpleasant illness, but can pose serious risks to those in at-risk groups and it’s essential people in these groups protect themselves during the winter months. Flu has been comparatively mild in recent years but the virus is very unpredictable because new strains of it circulate each year, so it’s impossible to predict how many serious cases there might be. Anyone who has suffered with flu will know how very unwell it makes you feel, therefore we’d encourage as many people as possible to get themselves vaccinated.”

Free flu vaccinations are available on the NHS to people aged 65 or over, pregnant women and people with serious long-term health conditions, particularly chronic respiratory conditions such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease, or those who have a weakened immune system.

Since 2013, two and three-year-olds have been eligible for free flu vaccinations via a simple, painless nasal spray and this year four-year-olds also qualify for the first time. People in the at-risk groups eligible for a free flu jab can arrange to receive the jab by talking to their GP or practice nurse.