Number of pensioners taking free flu jab falling
Many potential flu victims have not been vaccinated despite winter approaching, according to new figures.
The number of over 65 year olds who have been vaccinated has fallen since last year, as has the the number of younger "at risk" patients.
As of last week, only 48.9% of over 65s had been given the jab, compared with 54.8% in the same period of 2011.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "As winter approaches, we should all be on our guard against health problems."
The Department of Health (DoH) says around 4,700 people die every year in England, after getting flu.
People in at-risk groups - such as pregnant women - are 11 times more likely to die than someone who is not in an at-risk group.
End Quote Anna Soubry Public Health Minister
Our campaign aims to encourage people who are most at risk from flu, who have put it off or who don't think it is important, to get the vaccine”
The DoH has therefore launched a campaign to encourage at-risk groups to get vaccinated and a new website, called Winterwatch, will be launched later this month to provide winter-related health data.
Public Health Minister Anna Soubry said: "We have taken the decision this year to run a flu campaign because too many people in at-risk groups have not come forward for the jab yet, although local campaigns have been running for the past month.'£42m cost'
"Our campaign aims to encourage people who are most at risk from flu, who have put it off or who don't think it is important, to get the vaccine."
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "Each year the cold weather is responsible for an increase in deaths and thousands of cases of flu, falls, heart attacks and strokes.
"In past years, these extra pressures have cost the NHS £42m in emergency admissions alone.
"As winter approaches, we should all be on our guard against health problems - by taking simple steps and looking after our older friends and family we can keep warm and well."
Flu is generally just means taking time off work for most people but certain at-risk groups are prone to developing potentially fatal complications, such as bronchitis and pneumonia.
One upward trend is in the number of pregnant women receiving the flu jab this year - around 25%, compared to 13.6% by this week in 2011.
Louise Silverton, director for midwifery for the Royal College of Midwives, said: "Women must also be aware of the importance of having the seasonal flu vaccination as soon as they become pregnant.
"If any pregnant woman is unsure about this, I would urge them to speak to their midwife or doctor to discuss the issue.
"For women after their 28th week of pregnancy, they should ask for the pertussis (whooping cough) vaccination when they visit the GP."