Virus fears 'drove up' flu vaccine numbers

Record flu vaccine uptakeRecord flu vaccine uptake
Record flu vaccine uptake
Coronavirus fears look to have driven the number of older people in South Tyneside who got a flu jab over the winter to record numbers, according to new figures

Public Health England (PHE) figures show 31,466 people aged 65 and over received a flu vaccine in the borough between September 2020 and February.

This was 83% of all those registered with GPs in the area - up from 74.6% the year before, and the highest proportion since records began in 2013-14.

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PHE said the 80.9% uptake nationally – also a record – was likely a result of the coronavirus pandemic and the lack of a Covid-19 vaccine until December.

The figures also show that 56.3% of clinically “at risk” people in South Tyneside had a flu jab between September and February.

The Royal College of GPs praised the "incredible" efforts of healthcare workers for the achievement, but has called for details on how the flu and Covid vaccine booster programmes will be rolled out together this year.

Professor Martin Marshall, chairman of the organisation, said urgent questions need answered regarding how the flu vaccine programme will work alongside a Covid-19 booster jab, and who would be eligible.

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He added: “The flu vaccine is the best protection we have against flu and a high take up was especially important due to the pandemic.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “We are continuing to plan for a Covid-19 booster programme later in the year and further details of the winter flu vaccination programme will be set out in due course.”