Northern Ireland

Flu vaccine uptake down ten per cent in Northern Ireland

Image copyright PA
Image caption The drop in flu vaccination uptake is attributed to unseasonably warm weather and perceived failures of last year's vaccine

The Public Health Agency (PHA) is urging people in "at risk" groups to get flu shots after an overall drop in people getting the vaccination.

There was a ten per cent drop in Northern Ireland since last year, compared with six per cent in England.

'At risk' groups include pregnant women and those with underlying health conditions such as asthma.

The PHA said flu for these groups can "cause serious illness and result in a stay in hospital, or even death."

The drop in vaccination uptake is believed to be a result of unseasonably warm weather and perceived failures of last year's flu vaccine.

Dr Richard Smithson, consultant in health protection at the PHA, said: "One reason that the uptake may not be as good as last year is that it was discovered that last year's vaccine wasn't as effective on the virus as was hoped.

"However, the early indications this year show that this vaccine is a much better match for the circulating viruses and so it's very worthwhile getting it."

Dr Smithson said it was important that people get vaccinated annually.

"Strains of flu virus can vary from year to year, which is why you need to get the vaccination every year," he said.

"So even if you received the vaccine in spring this year, you still need to get the vaccination for this flu season."

Uptake of the vaccination by primary school-aged children was the highest in the UK.

"Hopefully we can improve uptake in the other groups as well so that as many vulnerable people as possible are protected," Dr Smithson said.

There was a fall in the number of pre-school aged children receiving the vaccination and only a slight fall in the numbers of people aged 65.

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