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Fears rise over low take-up of flu jabs

By Jane Kirby

Senior GPs say they are “deeply concerned” that a major flu crisis is brewing.

Fewer patients in at-risk groups — including pregnant women and those with diabetes and heart disease — are coming forward for the seasonal flu jab.

The vaccine protects against swine flu, which is circulating again this winter, as well as other types including flu type B.

Even those people in at-risk groups who had the swine flu jab last year should come forward for the new seasonal vaccine, according to the Department of Health.

Yesterday, the British Medical Association (BMA) said lower immunisation rates have increased fears that a normal seasonal flu outbreak could prove much more serious this time.

Chairman of the BMA's GPs committee Dr Laurence Buckman has written to the Government urging it to step up its publicity campaign.

He said: “Myths persist about the safety of the vaccine, especially after swine flu.

“The vaccine has been thoroughly tested and we strongly urge patients to make an appointment with their GP and get vaccinated.”

Data, for patients in England, showed that the number of people visiting their GPs with flu-like illness has risen to 35 cases per 100,000, up from 13 in the previous week.

The highest rates are among five to 14-year-olds and babies aged one to four.

At-risk groups include people over 65, those suffering from a chronic heart or chest complaint, people with asthma, chronic kidney disease, diabetes, and those with lowered immunity due to cancer.

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