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Flu vaccination uptake up, but so is illness

By Lilian Anekwe

Just over half of patients aged over 65 have received their annual flu vaccination, according to the first uptake figures published for this season's campaign.

Provisional data released from NHS Immunisation, derived from 7,139 (86%) of the 8,330 GP practices in England, shows that by then end of October 55.9% of patients aged 65 years and over had received their flu jab – up slightly from 54.7% at the same time last year.

30.6% of patients aged under 65 and in a clinical risk group had received their flu jab by the end of October, another modest increase from last year's figure of 28.4%.

So far the flu vaccination campaign has not been dogged by the shortages of vaccine seen in previous years. But the latest weekly report on influenza, compiled by the HPA and including data up to December 7th, warns that 'influenza activity across the UK appeared to be increasing.'

The more recent data included in the HPA's weekly report puts flu vaccine uptake at 71.4% in the over 65s and 43.4% in the under 65s.

The HPA report also states threshold for NHS direct have been exceeded, and the service has seen a 200% increase in the volume of cold and flu-related calls to their hotline.

From September 8 to December 7 NHS Direct experienced a 206% rise in callers ringing to seek medical advice about colds, flu, coughs and fever.

NHS Direct has also launched a ‘symptom checker' tool, adapted from the diagnostic protocol used by nurses at the NHD Direct call centre, to ease demand and advise patients whether to seek medical attention from their GP.

Anne Joshua, associate direction of pharmacy at NHS Direct, said: ‘The website advice will set out the options for self care –whether a visit to a pharmacy to speak to a pharmacist is needed, or whether it is best to contact a GP and if necessary it might prompt you to go to A&E.'

More over-65s people have had their flu vaccination this year, but overall illness rates are on the increase More over-65s people have had their flu vaccination this year, but overall illness rates are on the increase

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