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PHE urges at-risk patients to seek out flu vaccine due to late season

At-risk patients who have not yet had their seasonal flu jab are being encouraged to see their GP or pharmacist, despite it being nearly April.

Public Health England’s plea comes as it found influenza virus is circulating later in the season this year, with related hospital admissions remaining elevated.

PHE said the main strain of this flu season has been the H1N1 (swine flu) virus, which particularly affects children, pregnant women and adults with long-term conditions like chronic heart disease, liver disease, neurological disease and respiratory disease.

PHE head of flu surveillance Dr Richard Pebody said people should get vaccinated despite ‘a perception’ that ’the flu season is over’.

He said: ’Although it is late in the season, vaccine may still be available from GPs and pharmacists for those in eligible risk groups who are unvaccinated.

’This includes children and adults with long term health conditions and pregnant women, so speak to your GP or pharmacist about the vaccine if you’re eligible and haven’t had it yet this flu season.’

As previously reported, uptake of the flu vaccine slipped this year compared to last despite public health officials’ calls to boost uptake.

According to figures to the end of January, uptake was down among elderly people as well as under-65s in at-risk groups, pregnant women and all the target age groups in children.

NHS England extended the flu scheme to pharmacies this year in a bid to make vaccinations more easily available to the public. However GP leaders warned the main outcome of this measure could be GP practices losing vital income.