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."