Government ploughs extra £60m into flu vaccine drive

Flu immunisation campaign extended in bid to avoid repeat of last year’s NHS
crisis

The Government has launched a flu immunisation campaign targeting over-65s
and other high-risk categories, in an attempt to stave off a repeat of last
year’s winter crisis.

Minister for Public Health Yvette Cooper was joined by Sir Henry Cooper last
month to launch the campaign.

For the first time, the immunisation drive is being aimed at people aged 65
and over. In previous years the vaccine has been recommended for those over 75.

The decision to expand the campaign is based on evidence from several
studies by the Joint Council for Vaccines and Immunisation (JCVI) which show
there are significant health benefits to giving the vaccine to those aged
between 65 and 75.

The campaign is also targeting those whose medical conditions – such as
respiratory, renal or heart problems and diabetes – put them more at risk.

An extra £60m is being spent on this year’s campaign, which the Government
hopes will avert a similar crisis to that experienced by the NHS at the height
of the flu epidemic last year.

Yvette Cooper said, "For the first time, we are running a major public
health awareness campaign to encourage everyone over 65 and people in risk
groups to have a free flu vaccination. Our advisers tell us this is the best
way to prevent flu-related illness and deaths this winter.

"We aim to immunise 60 per cent of people over 65 in the UK and reach
more people in the at-risk groups than previous years."

Professor Liam Donaldson, the Government’s chief medical officer, said,
"While the occasional bout of flu is not a serious matter for most healthy
people, it can lead to serious complications such as pneumonia or bronchitis.
The more people are protected by immunisation, the fewer people will suffer
serious illness as a result of flu this winter."

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