Last year, 74.9% of people over 65 years and 78.7% in the at risk groups were vaccinated against flu in Northern Ireland, compared with the national averages of 72.8% for the over 65s and 50.4% for those ‘at risk’.
Naomi Long, MP for East Belfast, said: “The seasonal flu vaccination is important to help protect those people who are more susceptible to serious complications or even death from flu. I would encourage all those that are over the age of 65 or are in one of the ‘at risk’ groups to visit their surgeries and get vaccinated,” she added.
Dr George Kassianos, a GP and Fellow and Immunisation Lead of the Royal College of GPs, said “Despite the relatively mild flu season last year, people should remember that flu remains a serious threat, particularly for those aged over 65 and those of any age with medical conditions that put them at increased risk from influenza infection and its complications, for whom it can be a pretty nasty and debilitating illness. It’s not too late, and I would encourage everyone at risk to get their annual flu jab.”
The Department of Health provides free seasonal flu vaccinations for at risk groups, which include those aged 65 or over; people with chronic respiratory disease (including asthma), heart, renal, liver or neurological disease; diabetes; low immune systems; as well as people living in long-stay facilities such as nursing and residential homes, and carers of elderly or disabled people.
The initiative is sponsored by the UK Vaccine Industry Group (UVIG) and is supported by the Department of Health as a useful way to highlight the importance of flu vaccination.