Concern at five-year fall in at-risk Wigan adults getting flu jab

Fewer under-65s who are at risk due to their health conditions got vaccinated in 2020 than in 2015 in the borough, statistics from the BBC Shared Data Unit show.
Flu jab rates have fallen over a five-year period among at-risk under-65sFlu jab rates have fallen over a five-year period among at-risk under-65s
Flu jab rates have fallen over a five-year period among at-risk under-65s

Although there was a slight rise this year compared to the figure for the previous two years, the overall trend is a drop from 50.4 per cent of vulnerable under-65s getting a jab in 2015 to 48.8 per cent in 2020.

This is slightly better than the national average, which is 45 per cent.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

There are now calls for a concerted mythbusting effort from the Government to arrest declining vaccination trends across the country.

Experts are warning vaccination this year is more crucial than ever to avoid patients falling ill with both flu and Covid-19.

Wigan Borough Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) admitted uptake needs to be improved, despite an annual public health campaign urging residents to get jabs.

The eligibility criteria for vaccines for 2020-21 is being expanded, which locally means almost one in three borough residents could b e entitled to a free jab this year.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Prof Craig Harris, accountable officer for the CCG, said: “I can’t begin to tell you how important the flu vaccination is this year; no one wants to have coronavirus and flu at the same time, and in the NHS we need to try and manage and reduce our flu numbers and the best way to do this is to ensure vaccinate as many people as possible.

“We are working tirelessly in the CCG and across all the GP practices in Wigan borough to gear up to deliver a huge 100,000 free flu vaccinations through October.

“We will be turbo charging our flu vaccination programme and it will be the biggest vaccination programme we have ever run, but it will only work though if our residents and patients all do their part and get vaccinated.

“If you have a long-term health condition, are pregnant, were advised to shield this year, or are over 65, you are entitled to a free flu vaccination and getting vaccinated could just help save your life.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“So please remember this, and contact your GP practice later in September to get your vaccination booked.”

The UK as a whole is now languishing well behind flu jab targets set by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

And while the Wigan figure is not among the worst in the country fewer than half of vulnerable adults getting a flu vaccination is a long way off the target of 75 per cent the WHO says nations should be aiming for.

The borough is performing better when it comes to getting children vaccinated, with a huge jump among nursery-age youngsters from 44.5 per cent to 53.9 per cent in the most recent two years.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

That also puts the borough above the Government’s 50 per cent target for that age group.

Wigan’s figure of 70 per cent of primary school pupils vaccinated is also above the threshold of 65 per cent which ministers want local authorities in England to hit.

When the government surveyed councils on this, just 59 of the 152 who responded had a primary school flu jab rate of 65 per cent or higher.

Vaccination among health care workers in the borough has also risen, from 61 per cent in 2015-16 to 70 per cent in 2019-20.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The CCG has been working with nurseries to vaccinate two and three-year-olds and was one of the first places in the country to do so.

GP surgeries contacted patients directly about making a vaccination appointment while “flu parties” were held in practices to keep children entertained to encourage attendance.

This year’s flu vaccination programme brings particular challenges, due to the requirements for social distancing and staff to wear personal protective equipment (PPE).

The CCG is planning flu clinics in four large venues with between five and10 nurses working in each place, as well as vaccinations being delivered in GP practices.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

At-risk groups of patients will be directly contacted about getting a jab, and pharmacies will be offered support to deliver the vaccination.

Responding to the BBC Shared Data Unit’s figures, Asthma UK said the low uptake among at-risk adults was “deeply concerning”.

One expert also said parents who did not get children vaccinated showed “a lack of social responsibility”.