Does anyone else feel like this year is flying by? It feels like only yesterday we were in the run up to Christmas, but I’ve taken a look at the calendar and found that somehow we’re in February?! With spring on the horizon, it might seem odd that the team here at Age UK London are continuing to shout about the flu vaccine, but flu season can last as late as April, so it really is never too late to get your flu jab!
Although coronavirus is currently dominating the headlines, the flu virus is currently a far bigger risk to the health of older people across London and the country as a whole. In fact, admissions to intensive care for flu in London increased by 20 per cent in the first week of January, so it’s clear that flu remains a huge risk to the health of people in the capital. That’s why we’re calling on all older Londoners who haven’t had their flu jab to visit their GP or Pharmacist as soon as possible to ensure they’re protected from the flu virus.
Remember, flu vaccination is the best defence against the flu and is free if you are:
- 65 years or over
- Living in a residential or nursing home
- A carer of an older or disabled person
- A frontline care worker
- An NHS worker
- Living with a long term health condition
- Living with a weakened immune system
Unfortunately, even though the flu jab is free for those over the age of 65, London lags behind the national average for flu vaccination in this age group. This is especially concerning as UK national average is actually lower than the WHO recommended figure of 75%. There were also 16,133 more hospital admissions for flu & pneumonia for people aged 50+ during winter 2018/19, than the previous year.
Only 15% of Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) met the 75% recommended target rate for vaccines for older people in 2018-19 and Greater London holds eighteen of the twenty CCG areas with the lowest flu vaccine uptake. More worrying still, last winter, flu vaccine uptake in London actually decreased on the previous year.
Contrary to popular belief, the flu is far more than just a heavy cold; symptoms can include fever, chills, headaches and aching muscles. The virus can also lead to serious health complications, resulting in hospital visits and even death. While flu might not seem like a deadly illness, on average it kills around 17,000 people in England a year. Older people, as well as those living with long-term health conditions or weakened immune systems are especially vulnerable to the effects of flu in a city as busy as London.
Age UK London’s “It’s Never Too Late!” campaign aims to increase uptake of the free flu jab amongst older Londoners by publicising the vaccine and busting myths about the flu virus. We’re also encouraging organisations that work with older Londoners to contact the charity to receive tools to help them spread the word – including leaflets, posters, and “Flu Fighter” toolkits.
Our Campaigns Manager Kathleen Egan said: “While coronavirus is hitting the headlines it’s vital we don’t lose sight of the fact that ordinary run of the mill winter flu poses by far the greater risk to older Londoners’ health at the moment. The flu season can last right through to April, so it really is never too late to get your jab done – all you have to do is ask your GP or Pharmacist for your flu jab today!” “Any organisations working with older Londoners should get in touch with Age UK London so we can help them to spread the word – not the flu!”
If you would like us to visit your organization, please email Sharon Tynan.
Remember to ask your GP or Pharmacist for your vaccine today! To find out more about our campaign please head to www.ageuk.org.uk/london/flu