People are urged to get a flu shot if they are eligible as flu rates increase throughout the region.
Data shows flu hospitalizations in the Northwest have increased 81 percent in the past week.
People eligible for the free flu vaccine, particularly parents of two- and three-year-olds who have been offered the vaccine in the Northwest, are urged to take it up as soon as possible.
In the Northwest, the rate of flu hospitalizations has increased by 81 percent over the past week, with the highest rate nationwide among children under five.
The latest flu vaccine acceptance data shows rates are comparable to last year for this point in the season.
Encouragingly though, acceptance rates in elementary school children are surpassing last year’s levels for the comparable time period with more than 21 percent vaccinated nationally, an increase of more than 7 percent. since last year.
Interested health professionals
Health professionals are particularly concerned about the low uptake of the vaccine in children ages two to three, the lowest in the Northwest at 7.5%, pregnant women at 12.1%, and people with long-term health problems with 24.5%, who are more vulnerable to serious illness from the flu.
UKHSA North West Deputy Director Dr Sam Ghebrehewet said: “As flu cases rise, we urge parents in particular not to get caught up as flu rates are currently higher in children from 5 to 14 years old.
“This will be a concern for many parents and caregivers of young children, and we urge them to take up the vaccination offer for eligible children as soon as possible, including 2-3 year olds.
“We are extremely fortunate to have vaccines, which continue to be our best protection against serious illness and hospitalization this winter.
“Most groups eligible for flu vaccination have been selected because they are at higher risk of severe illness, including those with long-term health problems and pregnant women, so book your shot without delay. You will help protect yourself and your family and help reduce the burden on our healthcare services.
“It is also vital that we all remain cautious as we approach the festive period when people tend to mingle more and the risk of flu increases. If you are not feeling well, avoid contact with people who are elderly or have underlying health conditions.”
Tricia Spedding, head of public health for NHS England in the North West, said: “If you are eligible for the free flu vaccine, it is important that you get vaccinated every year, because the viruses that cause flu can change every year.
“This means that the flu and the vaccine may be different this year.
“If you or someone you care for is eligible for the flu shot and hasn’t had it yet, it’s not too late.
“Doctors’ offices and pharmacies throughout the Northwest continue to offer the flu vaccine and we strongly encourage you to take up the offer to help protect yourself and those around you from the flu this winter.”
Who is eligible for a free flu vaccine?
For adults, the flu vaccine is given free of charge on the NHS to people who:
- Are 50 years of age or older (including those who will be 50 years of age before March 31, 2023).
- Having certain health conditions.
- they are pregnant.
- They are in long-term residential care.
- Receiving a caregiver allowance, or being the primary caregiver for an elderly or disabled person who may be at risk if they become ill.
- Live with someone who is more likely to get a serious infection due to a weakened immune system, such as someone living with HIV, someone who has had a transplant, or is receiving certain treatments for cancer, lupus, or rheumatoid arthritis.
Children can also get a flu shot through a nasal spray, instead of a shot.
The nasal spray flu vaccine is free on the NHS for:
- Children two or three years old on August 31, 2022 (born between September 1, 2018 and August 31, 2020).
- All primary school children (Reception to Year 6).
- Some school-age children.
- Children ages 2 to 17 with long-term health conditions.
For more information about the flu vaccine, visit the NHS website.