Health risk as thousands shun flu jab

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THOUSANDS of people could be risking their health by not coming forward to have the flu vaccine, doctors have warned.

Surgery fridges are full of unused doses, some GPs have said, as fewer patients are choosing to be immunised, the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) said.

Six per cent fewer injections have been given this year compared to the same period last year, as surgeries in England have vaccinated 100 fewer patients per practice, the report in conjunction with Public Health England said.

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The figures are “alarming”, the RCGP chairwoman Dr Maureen Baker said as she urged patients, especially those in at-risk groups such as the elderly, pregnant women and people with long-term health conditions, not to “shun” the jab.

Doctors suggested there could be a perception that the vaccine had not been very effective last year, deterring people from having it.

Professor Simon de Lusignan, Director of the RCGP Research and Surveillance Centre, described the effectiveness of the 2014 round of vaccinations as “reasonable”.

GPs also said unseasonably warm temperatures may be putting people off being vaccinated, but warned that cold weather does not always contribute to flu outbreaks.

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Prof de Lusignan, who is also a GP, said: “In my practice, we appear to be giving fewer vaccines and have now slowed the ordering of vaccines because our fridges are full.

“The College’s ‘surveillance’ practices are seeing similar results. We took a snapshot of 101 practices and overall they reported an average (median) reduction of 106 fewer vaccines compared with the same period last year.

“The reasons for this are unclear, but it is possible that perceptions of lower vaccine effectiveness last year may have influenced people.

Dr Baker added: “These figures are extremely alarming. We are experiencing an incredibly mild November this year but we don’t need cold weather for a flu outbreak and influenza is a horrible illness that can also an trigger a host of other health problems.

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“We urge patients not to shun the reminders they receive from the GP surgery and to have their vaccination as a priority.

“It provides valuable protection and plays a key role in keeping vulnerable people as healthy as possible through the winter.”

The last flu pandemic was in 2009.