The Government is encouraging patients to make sure they have had their flu jab before the holidays, as fewer than half (46.8%) of under-65s with a long-term health condition have had it so far this year.
Health officials said while vaccine coverage in the under-65 high risk populations was higher at this point than the last six flu seasons, it did lag behind uptake in other groups with this year seeing the highest ever recorded uptake in older patients.
There is also variable uptake between conditions eligible for vaccination with some groups not realising they are at serious risk from complications of flu or death, especially if they didn’t have a respiratory condition, PHE said.
Those eligible for a flu jab also include pregnant women and, from the 1 December, those aged 50-64 years.
Last week, GPs were told they could order QIVc flu vaccine for the under 65s from the Government’s central stock again following a shortage.
It followed guidance in November that the ‘majority’ of QIVc and QIVe stock had already been ordered and that practices should instead order temporarily-licensed Flublok (QIVr) or aTIV for under and over-65s respectively.
Dr Vanessa Saliba, head of flu at Public Health England said: ‘The flu vaccine is the best defence against what can be a serious illness, especially for those living with long-term health conditions, such as respiratory diseases, diabetes and liver disease.
‘People living with long-term health conditions are also at higher risk of serious illness from Covid-19, and having both flu and Covid-19 at the same time is associated with a greater risk of more severe illness and death.’
Public health minister Jo Churchill added: ‘This winter with Covid-19 circulating, it’s more important than ever that all those eligible get their jab.
‘Our brilliant GPs and pharmacists are delivering the vaccine to record numbers and if you are contacted by your GP, make sure you take the opportunity to get your free flu vaccination.’
Dr Nikki Kanani, NHS England primary care director, said: ‘As well as kicking off the world-first Covid-19 programme this week, the NHS continues to offer essential flu vaccines for those who need it, and it’s especially important that those most at-risk, including with long-term conditions, get vaccinated.
‘We have written to eligible patients inviting them to get vaccinated without delay, and NHS services have put a range of measures in place to minimise any risk of Covid-19.’