Nearly a quarter of older people in Bedford haven't been vaccinated against the flu

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Nearly a quarter of patients aged 65 and over in Bedford have not been vaccinated against influenza, new figures show.

The NHS offers free flu jabs to the most vulnerable patients – such as those in older age groups, with weaker immune systems, or pregnant women.

But new figures show 76% of 26,000 patients aged 65 and over in Bedford had received a vaccine as of the end of November, with the remainder more vulnerable to the illness.

76% of 26,000 patients aged 65 and over in Bedford had received the flu jab as of the end of November76% of 26,000 patients aged 65 and over in Bedford had received the flu jab as of the end of November
76% of 26,000 patients aged 65 and over in Bedford had received the flu jab as of the end of November

This was the same as the national average – 76% of people over 65 had been given a vaccine across England as of the end of November, leaving nearly a quarter of this group unvaccinated.

More recent figures – only available for England as a whole – show this figure has since increased slightly, to 77%. However, the NHS warns this is a lower proportion than at the same point last winter.

Official guidance says vaccinations remain "critically important", reducing the burden on the health service as it deals with regular winter pressures and the continued fall-out of the coronavirus pandemic.

Vulnerable people under 65 had lower coverage, with 37% vaccinated in Bedford. Meanwhile, uptake among pregnant women was at 29% at the end of November.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, urged older people to get vaccinated against flu and Covid-19.

She said: "Flu vaccines help protect against the main types of flu viruses and although there's still a chance we might get flu even after vaccination, the symptoms are likely to be milder and more short-lived."

"With all the worries about the rising cost of living and energy prices and with the additional pressures on the NHS at wintertime, it’s more important than ever to stay fit and well this year, and getting these vaccinations will help," she added.

Dr Mary Ramsay, director of public health programmes at UKHSA, said infections are rising as people socialise indoors over the festive season.

"Nobody wants to get their new year off to a bad start, so be sure to gift yourself the best possible protection against flu and Covid-19 as we head into peak season."

She continued: "Pregnant women and those in clinical risk groups are at higher risk of complications from flu but over 60% of these groups remain unvaccinated, so we urge them to come forward."

Dr Ramsay said those eligible should speak to their GP – adding that many pharmacies offer free bookable and walk-in vaccinations.