Calls to get free flu vaccination jabs before winter sets in are being made in light of new figures which show that 36,397 missed out on protection last year across Sunderland.

The call has been made by Sharon Hodgson, MP for Washington and Sunderland West, and comes as the Chief Medical Officer warns that flu and complications associated with it causes an average of 8,000 deaths a year in England.

Bed days lost to flu and pneumonia

Official figures also show that just under 2.9m bed days were lost to flu and pneumonia last year in English hospitals, up almost 280,000 from the previous year – an 11% increase.

In the Washington and Sunderland area last year:

  • 13,473 older people missed out on their free flu vaccination jab
  • Just 48% of over-65s with long-term conditions were vaccinated
  • A further 16,624 working age people with long-term conditions didn’t get the free flu vaccination
  • Thousands of young children (2-4 year olds) didn’t get the vaccine, including 124 who were classed as being at greater risk
  • 1,215 pregnant women with no long-term conditions and 138 pregnant women with long-term conditions didn’t get protected

Cause serious health problems

Sharon Hodgson MP said: “We all try to avoid getting the flu during the cold winter months, as it can knock us off our feet for a couple of days. That is why it is important that we all get vaccinated to protect ourselves from the flu. It is especially important for older people and those with long-term conditions in particular to get vaccinated as flu can cause serious health problems.

“Getting the flu jab is easy and offers the best chance of avoiding the flu and for those who are eligible, they can get it for free. I hope as many people from our local area will get vaccinated this winter and go and speak to your GP or local pharmacist about getting vaccinated before the cold weather sets in.”

Child vaccinations 

This year, more people than ever – around 21 million – will be offered the free flu vaccination. Children in school year 4 will be offered the vaccine for the first time and children over age 4 in reception year can get their vaccine in school.

A £10m programme will also see a free flu vaccination offered to all care home workers via their GP or pharmacist. Official figures show that older people are three times as likely to be admitted to hospital with flu if they live in a care home, with emergency flu and pneumonia admissions from care homes jumping by 16% last year alone to around 29,000.

Prepare for winter

The national drive marks the start of the Public Health England and NHS England’s joint Stay Well This Winter campaign, which helps the most vulnerable people prepare for winter and avoid having to visit hospital due to common winter illnesses.

NHS England’s National Medical Director for Acute Care, Professor Keith Willett, said: “Hospitals and GPs are preparing intensively for this winter, and we would remind people of the importance of having a flu vaccination. There are 21 million people eligible this year, but last year eight million people missed out and that is something we can all definitely change.”

More information on eligibility for the free flu vaccination, and other tips on staying well this winter, can be found at www.nhs.uk/staywell