Winter flu jab warning as thousands of Norfolk patients miss out on vaccine

NHS Norfolk are warning the vulnerable and elderly to get their seasonal flu jab after it emerged only half of those eligible took advantage of the free vaccine last year.

Flu claimed the lives of 602 people in the UK last year with 70% of the deaths in young and middle aged people.

But only 48.4% of patients aged 15 to 64, eligible for the jab in Norfolk, were vaccinated.

Jonathan Williams, Assistant Director of Public Health at NHS Norfolk, said many people did not visit their GP for the potentially life-saving vaccine because they said it made them feel unwell or they thought they were already protected through a past vaccine.

Vulnerable groups include pregnant women, over-65s, carers and those with long term health problems that affect one in three of us such as heart or chest diseases, or diabetes.

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In Norfolk 72% of the county's 200,000 over-65s had the free jab last year, but in other at-risk groups the figure fell to just 39%.

Mr Williams added: 'We know that there are still people at risk of developing severe symptoms from flu who are putting their health at serious risk by not taking up the opportunity of vaccination. We urge you to take advantage of the opportunity.'

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Last year GP surgeries ran low on the vaccine due to a severe flu outbreak, forcing jabs to be swapped between practices.

But in preparation for the winter Norfolk doctors ordered thousands more vaccines from the Department of Health last month.

Mr Williams said: 'The GPs really do work hard at getting people through the doors. They know what flu can do.'

New vaccines have to be created each year to cope with new strains of the flu virus.

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