How many people in Hartlepool missed out on free flu jabs
Two in five people eligible for free flu vaccines in Hartlepool did not take them up last winter, figures show.
England’s top doctors are urging people to protect themselves and their families from flu amid warnings that new cases may peak over Christmas and New Year.
NHS England data shows that 33,276 people were eligible for free flu vaccines in Hartlepool last winter – but only 60% of them had one.
The low rate meant 13,254 vulnerable people were left unprotected in the area through the key winter months.
While the flu virus can be unpleasant for anyone, if sufferers are otherwise healthy it usually clears up without treatment within a week.
However, for certain groups of people, such as the elderly, the very young, pregnant women and people with other health conditions, it can be serious and even cause death.
The NHS offers free flu vaccines to all these groups due to their increased vulnerability.
The figures show that toddlers were much less likely to have had the jab than their older neighbours in Hartlepool, with parents taking only 33% of two year olds and 33% of children aged three for the vaccinations.
The uptake rate among Hartlepool's senior residents was better – but at 72%, around 5,100 over 65s still went without.
Just 39% of pregnant women received the vaccine, and 49% of under 65s with health conditions which put them at heightened risk.
Public Health England says hundreds of thousands could see their holiday plans turned to misery if flu levels rise as expected in late December and early January.
Professor Stephen Powis, the NHS's national medical director, said: “Nobody wants to be laid low by flu while the festivities are in full swing.
“It’s good to see that more people over the age of 65 have already got their jab. For older people and those with underlying health conditions, getting flu is particularly bad news because it can lead to really serious conditions like pneumonia and bronchitis, which can mean a lengthy stay in hospital.
“Our message is simple. The flu season is here, get your jab now.”