MORE people in Derbyshire are protecting themselves from the life-threatening consequences of the flu than this time last year, new figures have revealed.
Last year 600 people died from flu, and a high proportion may have been avoided if people in at-risk groups had been vaccinated.
Between 1 September and 13 November, 67% of elderly people aged 65 or over living in Derbyshire County chose to have their seasonal flu jab – compared to 61% at the same time last year.
Vaccinating in large numbers early on in the flu season can help stop the spread of the illness, which can be particularly harmful to the elderly, pregnant women and those with long term illnesses such as asthma and diabetes.
Dr Bruce Laurence, acting director of public health for NHS Derbyshire County, said: “The flu virus tends to peak in winter, so we’re delighted that we are helping to save more lives at a critical point in the flu season. High uptake also plays a vital role in preventing unnecessary hospital admissions.
“We recognise there is no room for complacency and flu is a serious, sometimes even life-threatening illness, which people can catch easily when it is circulating. We will continue to work together with our GPs and other health professionals to protect as many vulnerable people as possible from the potentially devastating effects of flu.”
NHS Derbyshire County has also seen an increase in the number of pregnant women having the flu jab this year, with 26% of pregnant women having the jab in Derbyshire County compared to 17 % last year. But seven out of 10 pregnant women are still putting themselves at risk of premature labour, miscarriage and respiratory complications by choosing not to have the flu jab.
“This is the third year the flu vaccine has been offered to all pregnant women so we’re pleased to be improving on last year’s performance. But more mums-to-be do need to be aware of the risks they are putting on themselves and their unborn child if they don’t come forward and have the jab,” Dr Laurence added.
GPs will continue their flu vaccination programme until the end of February. Anyone aged over 65, pregnant women, carers, residents in long-stay care homes, those with heart disease, breathing problems, diabetes and other long-term illnesses is entitled to a free flu jab. Patients wanting to book an appointment to have their jab should contact their GP. Help and information on the flu and its symptoms is freely available from NHS Direct on 0845 4647.