Press release

Don’t play Russian roulette with flu

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

Millions of people in at risk groups urged to get vaccinated from today

Millions of people in at risk groups urged to get vaccinated from today

People are playing Russian roulette with their lives every year by not protecting themselves against seasonal flu, the Chief Medical Officer has warned.

In contrast, people routinely get vaccinated against yellow fever, typhoid and hepatitis A before jetting off on exotic holidays to Thailand or Africa.

Shocking statistics out today show that 87 per cent of people questioned say they get vaccinations against tropical diseases before travelling abroad. But only half of under 65s who were advised to get the seasonal flu jab took it up last year.

This is despite the fact that seasonal flu can also be life-threatening. Last year, 602 people died with flu in the UK. 70 per cent of deaths were in young and middle aged people aged 15-64 years.

These statistics come as the seasonal flu vaccine was today (3 October) made available for people in at risk groups, free of charge from GPs.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies said:

“A five minute appointment to have the flu jab could save your life. Flu can be a serious illness - particularly for those in at risk groups. It can result in a spell in hospital, and sadly, flu can kill. The best way to protect yourself is to be vaccinated.

“There is no reason not to get vaccinated. It takes five to ten days for the vaccine to take effect so I’d urge everyone in an at risk group to get vaccinated as soon as they are able.”

National Director of Immunisation, Professor David Salisbury said:

“It is important that people get vaccinated when they go travelling. However, it is just as important for people in at risk groups to get the flu jab. It is very important that people in these groups get vaccinated early in the flu season so they are protected before flu starts to circulate.

“About three-quarters of older people get their flu vaccine each year, but only around half of younger people in at risk groups get vaccinated. Seasonal flu is not the same as getting a cold - it can seriously affect your health.”

Those who can get the flu jab free of charge on the NHS include:

  • pregnant women;
  • anyone with a long term condition including diabetes, asthma, liver disease, kidney disease or heart or chest problems;
  • people undergoing medical treatment who may have a compromised immune system;
  • people with a neurological condition such as multiple sclerosis (MS) or cerebral palsy; and
  • everyone aged 65 or over.


Notes to editors

  1. For further information please contact the Department of Health newsdesk on 02072105221.
  2. Statistics came from a poll conducted for the Department of Health by ComRes. 1754 English adults online between 23rd and 25th September 2011. Full data tables are available at
  3. Last year, 602 people died with flu. Of the 587 deaths with information on age, 70 per cent of those deaths (415) were in young and middle aged people aged 15-64 years.
  4. Those eligible for the flu jab are:
  • People 65 years of age or over

  • Pregnant women in any stage of pregnancy

  • People living in a residential or nursing home

  • A main carer for an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if they fall ill

  • A frontline health or social care worker

Or have one of the following conditions:

  • chronic (long-term) respiratory disease, such as asthma, COPD or bronchitis;

  • chronic heart disease;

  • chronic kidney disease;

  • chronic liver disease;

  • chronic neurological disease, such as stroke, TIA, polio syndrome;

  • diabetes

  • a weakened immune system due to conditions, such as HIV or AIDs, or treatments that suppress the immune system, such as chemotherapy.