THOUSANDS of people in Redditch are continuing to put their health at risk by failing to have their flu jab.
The vaccine is available free to those of all ages with a health condition, pregnant women, children aged two to four years old and the over 65s, as they are the groups most at risk from the flu virus.
While for most healthy people flu is an unpleasant disease which takes about a week to recover from, it can be life-threatening for those with health conditions such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease or those with a weakened immune system.
Those with flu are about 11 times more likely to die if they have an underlying health condition.
But last winter just 52.1 per cent of people aged six months to 65 years old in the Redditch and Bromsgrove area with an underlying health condition had the jab, meaning more than 8,000 people went unprotected.
Pregant women are at risk as their body’s immune system is weakened and both mother and unborn baby can become seriously ill from flu which complications such as premature birth can also result from it. Yet just 36.4 per cent of mothers-to-be were vaccinated between September and December 2013, leaving over 1,300 women unprotected.
Last year two and three-year-olds were offered the flu vaccination in the form of a nasal spray but just 40 per cent of parents took advantage of the offer, meaning 1,714 children were exposed to the risk of the virus.
The biggest take up of the vaccine was amongst the over 65s with more than 73 per cent having the jab.
Dr Jonathan Wells, chair of Redditch and Bromsgrove CCG, urged all those eligible for the vaccine to book an appointment to have it as soon as possible.
“Although flu vaccination has become a standard and accepted part of the annual health routine for the over 65s, unfortunately this does not appear to yet be the case for younger patients in eligible groups, and we need to work hard on changing this.” he said.
“I suspect many younger patients in the risk groups don’t really view themselves as being at extra risk from flu, so they don’t think about having the vaccination. But the evidence shows that flu vaccination for patients with the specified long-term conditions is definitely beneficial, as it is for pregnant women, and I would encourage all to get booked in.”
People can register to have their flu jab with their GP or some pharmacies.