Over 23,000 over 65 year olds in Sandwell and West Birmingham left themselves at risk of the deadly flu last year, NHS figures have revealed. NHS Sandwell and West Birmingham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is urging all over 65s to get their free flu vaccination before the flu season hits hard in the coming weeks.
Statistics from Public Health England* reveal that just 66 % of over 65s in Sandwell and West Birmingham took up the offer of a free flu jab last year. This year they will get the new and improved aTIV flu jab, which improves the body’s immune response to the vaccine.
The newly available vaccine for the over 65s is expected to significantly boost effectiveness by improving the body’s immune response. This is important because older adults’ bodies typically do not respond as well to the flu vaccine due to their naturally weaker immune systems. Older adults are also more likely to suffer complications from flu.
Dr Nick Harding, Chair at NHS Sandwell and West Birmingham CCG, said:
Flu is potentially a very serious illness and adults aged over 65 are more likely to catch it and suffer from the complications it causes than anyone else. The new enhanced vaccine for this age group will offer better protection as well as helping to reduce the spread of flu to those around them. It has the potential to reduce GP consultations, hospitalisations and prevent deaths from flu, alleviating some of the health burden that seasonal flu places on the population, workplaces and the NHS.
"If anyone has not yet had their vaccine, or had difficulty in getting their vaccine, then they should contact their GP Practice to get booked in as soon as possible.
"It takes about two weeks for our bodies to develop all the antibodies we’ll reap from the vaccination so people over 65 need to get protected as soon as they can to avoid flu ruining their Christmas and New Year celebrations.”
The NHS is also providing flu vaccinations for other at-risk groups such as pregnant women and people with long-term conditions, as well as for NHS and care staff. There is also a nasal spray, which works better in younger people, and is free of charge for children.
Appointments with a GP, nurse or other healthcare professional are also now available in the evenings and weekends, either at people’s local practice or another nearby NHS service.