Press release

Don’t forget your flu jab

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

People in high risk groups are being urged to make an appointment with their GP to have a flu jab if they haven't already done so

And it doesn’t give you flu - contrary to what the majority of people think

People who have a liver disease, heart or chest problems, neurological conditions, those aged 65 or over and all pregnant women are among the groups being urged to make an appointment with their GP to have a flu jab if they haven’t already done so.

The Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, is reminding everyone in an at risk group to come forward and join the estimated seven million people who have already had the vaccine this year.

Latest figures published today show that:

• 55 per cent (5.1 million) of people aged 65 or over;
• 32 per cent (1.8 million) of people under the age of 65 in at risk groups; and
• 14 per cent (51,000) of pregnant women have had the vaccine this year.
The Chief Medical Officer has said that she wants to see 75 per cent of the 65 years and older group and 60 per cent of under 65s in at risk groups get vaccinated this year.
And to encourage take up of the vaccine, Dame Sally is making clear that the vaccine does not give people the flu. This follows a recent poll for the Department of Health, which showed that 58 per cent of people wrongly believe that the flu jab actually gives people the flu.

Dame Sally said:

“I can categorically state that the flu jab does not give you flu. The vaccine does not include the live virus.

“It can save your life though. Flu can kill - and it can be particularly dangerous for people in at risk groups. They are on average 11 times more likely to die from flu than a healthy person is.

“If you haven’t been called for a flu jab and are in an at risk group, it’s time to contact your GP to make an appointment. If you’re in an at risk group, it’s free on the NHS.”

People in an at risk group are more likely to die if they get flu than a “healthy” person. In particular:
• people with diabetes are 6 times more likely to die if they get flu than a “healthy” person;
• people with chronic heart disease are 11 times more likely to die if they get flu that a “healthy” person;
• people with chronic respiratory disease are 7 times more likely to die if they get flu than a “healthy” person;
• people with chronic renal disease are 19 times more likely to die if they get flu than a “healthy” person;
• people with chronic liver disease are 48 times more likely to die if they get flu than a “healthy” person;
• people undergoing medical treatment who may have a compromised immune system are 47 times more likley to die if they get flu than a “healthy” person; and
• people with a neurological condition such as multiple sclerosis (MS) or cerebral palsy are 40 times more likely to die if they get flu than a “healthy” person.

Everyone who falls into the following groups is advised to have the flu vaccine:
• people aged 65 years or over;
• pregnant women in any stage of pregnancy;
• people living in a residential or nursing home; or
• the main carer for an older or disabled person.

People with the following conditions are also advised to have the flu vaccine:
• a heart problem;
• a chest complaint or breathing difficulties including, bronchitis, emphysema;
• a kidney disease;
• lowered immunity due to disease or treatment (such as steroid medication or cancer treatment);
• a liver disease;
• had a stroke or a transient ischaemic attack (TIA);
• diabetes;
• a neurological condition e.g. multiple sclerosis (MS) or cerebral palsy; and
• a problem with, or removal of, your spleen e.g. sickle cell disease.

The flu vaccine is free to everyone in these groups.

Notes to Editors

1. The Health Protection Agency’s weekly flu update can be found on the HPA website.

2. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advises the Government on which groups should be vaccinated. It is an independent expert advisory committee. The JCVI gives advice to Ministers based on the best evidence reflecting current good practice and/or expert opinion. The process involves a robust, transparent, and systematic appraisal of all the available evidence from a wide range of sources. Members of the committee are appointed on merit by the Appointments Commission.

3. Extrapolated estimates for the population groups eligible for seasonal flu:

• 65s and over - 8,816,429

Under 65s in at risk groups:

• 6 months to 2 years - 14,997
• 2 years to under 16 years - 442,322
• 16 years to under 65 years - 5,158,667

There are an estimated 376,402 pregnant women registered with GP practices.

4. For media enquiries only, please call the Department of Health newsdesk on 020 7210 5221. Non media callers should contact the customer service centre on 020 7210 4850.