Liam Halligan: Busi­ness,

The Sunday Telegraph - - Front page - By Laura Don­nelly HEALTH ED­I­TOR

PREG­NANT women and chil­dren are be­ing urged to come for­ward for flu jabs amid concern about low up­take.

Health of­fi­cials warned that the main strain in cir­cu­la­tion this year is more likely to in­fect chil­dren and young peo­ple, as they is­sued the plea.

It fol­lows the fail­ure of last year’s jabs, which fu­elled the high­est win­ter death toll for more than 40 years.

This year, new types of vaccines are be­ing of­fered, but the scram­ble to get hold of stocks meant GPs were asked to de­lay of­fer­ing the jabs to some pa­tients.

Prof Paul Cos­ford, med­i­cal direc­tor at Pub­lic Health Eng­land (PHE), said this year’s jabs ap­peared to be a good match with the main strain in cir­cu­la­tion – H1N1 – which typ­i­cally in­fects younger peo­ple.

The fig­ures showed that so far, takeup is sig­nif­i­cantly lower than last year among preg­nant women, pen­sion­ers as well as younger adults with health con­di­tions, such as asthma and di­a­betes.

Dur­ing preg­nancy, women and their un­born ba­bies are at higher risk of com­pli­ca­tions from flu be­cause of re­duced im­mu­nity.

Just 40.8 per cent of preg­nant women have had the jab so far this year, com­pared with 43.5 per cent this time last year, with al­most iden­ti­cal trends seen among adults with health con­di­tions.

Take-up was higher among pen­sion- ers, at 65.4 per cent, by the week end­ing Nov 25. But it is still sig­nif­i­cantly down on last year, when it had reached 69.1 per cent by then.

The fig­ures showed the only age groups see­ing an in­crease in up­take are tod­dlers and school­child­ren, but just one in five school­child­ren and one in three tod­dlers have been vac­ci­nated.

Chil­dren aged two and three can re­ceive a nasal spray vac­cine at GP surg­eries, while jabs are of­fered to other young chil­dren at school.

PHE also urged health­care staff to be vac­ci­nated.

Ahead of win­ter, NHS watch­dogs said hos­pi­tal staff could be barred from front-line du­ties if they re­fused to have the vac­cine. Yet the fig­ures sug­gest staff take-up is al­most as low as last year, with just 46.3 per cent hav­ing had the jab by the end of Oc­to­ber.

Prof Cos­ford told The Sun­day Tele­graph: “Early in­di­ca­tions sug­gest that the flu vaccines are well matched to the strains likely to cir­cu­late this year.

“It is even more im­por­tant than ever that all those el­i­gi­ble take the vac­cine, es­pe­cially be­fore Christ­mas when peo­ple will gather to­gether.”

Last year’s jab was only ef­fec­tive for one in 10 pen­sion­ers, and was lit­tle bet­ter for most adults. But this year el­i­gi­ble adults un­der 65 will be of­fered a vac­cine that pro­tects against four key strains of flu, in­stead of the last ver­sion that pro­tected against three, and pen­sion­ers will be of­fered a boosted jab.

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