Flu jab rates below target for at-risk groups across North Yorkshire
Flu jab rates were below target for groups at higher risk from the virus in North Yorkshire last year, figures reveal, as the Government aims to ramp up vaccinations this autumn.
Free flu immunisation is being offered to millions more people this year in a bid to ease pressure on healthcare services in case Covid-19 continues into the winter.
Targets for existing groups are also increasing.
But with uptake rates already falling below required levels across the country, public health experts say achieving the new goals will be a major challenge and have called for extra resources.
Public Health England figures show just 48.7% of clinically “at risk” people in North Yorkshire had the vaccine between September and February – below the target of at least 55.0%.
The group includes those aged between six months and 64 years old with serious diseases, the severely obese and people with learning disabilities who are at greater risk of developing serious complications if they catch flu. A free vaccine is also offered to people aged 65 or over – the uptake rate in North Yorkshire for people in this age bracket was 74.6% – just short of the 75.0% minimum.
The Government wants to expand the programme to include those shielding from the coronavirus and members of their household, health and social care workers, and later to all those aged 50 or over.It says this could amount to more than 30 million people including existing target groups.
Professor Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said “the very real threat of a second wave” of the coronavirus makes this year’s flu programme more important than ever.
He added: “The additional number of patients and ongoing circulation of Covid-19 will be a major challenge for GPs and practices who will be delivering this year’s programme with social distancing measures in place.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “We already have some of the best flu vaccine uptake rates in Europe, but this winter more than ever it is vital that everybody eligible gets their flu vaccine to protect themselves and support the NHS and social care.”