Rise in flu prompts doctors to issue vaccine warning

Top doctors have warned those at risk of catching flu to get their free vaccine over Christmas. Pict

Top doctors have warned those at risk of catching flu to get their free vaccine over Christmas. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Top doctors have appealed to those most at risk of catching flu to protect themselves over Christmas after a 24% increase in cases since the start of December.

Suffolk residents could see their holiday plans turn to misery if flu levels rise as expected in late December and early January.

The medical professionals are sending the warning over the festive period, despite Suffolk being one of the best counties in the region for flu vaccinations.

Dr Christopher Browning, a GP in Long Melford and chairman of NHS West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group, said: "Now is the time to have the conversation about the importance of flu vaccinations.

"If your daughter, wife or sister is pregnant they need to recognise the need to protect their own health and that of their unborn baby. If you have young grandchildren, talk to their parents. Talk to older relatives and neighbours.

"Don't be shy in starting the conversation. Flu can lead to serious complications like middle ear infections in children, and pneumonia or bronchitis for those with underlying health conditions, and in some cases it can be fatal."

Suffolk is outperforming many other counties in the East of England, achieving a 64% vaccination rate across all of those most vulnerable categories - including over-65s and young children.

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It is currently joint best in the East of England alongside Norfolk.

For those aged over 65, Suffolk achieved a vaccination rate of 73% - only 2% under the national target. For those under 65, the vaccination rate is 48%, 7% below the national target.

Essex is performing slightly worse, with an overall vaccination rate of 59%. For those ages over 65, the rate is 69% and for those at most risk under 65 it is 44%.

Due to delays in vaccine delivery from the manufacturer, uptake among two to three year olds is lagging behind previous seasons.

Dr Geraldine Linehan, medical director of commissioning, NHS England and NHS Improvement, said: "Whether it's missing out on your Christmas dinner, the Boxing Day match or a New Year's party, nobody wants to be laid low by flu while the festivities are in full swing. So our message is simple - the flu season is here, get your jab now. It might be the difference between a Christmas to remember, and one to forget."

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