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Flu jab restriction 'not down to cutting costs'


The government’s chief medical adviser has insisted that cost-cutting was not to blame for the decision not to vaccinate all under-fives against flu.

The parents of three-year-old Lana Ameen, who died from swine flu days after Christmas, have called for a national programme to protect the youngest children.

But chief medical officer Professor Dame Sally Davies insisted that people of working age were in fact at greatest risk of being killed by the strains of flu prevalent in the UK this winter and it was important for health professionals to focus on protecting the most vulnerable.

She urged people in at-risk groups - such as those with underlying medical complaints - to get themselves vaccinated, warning that more than half of those aged under 65 have so far got the jab to which they are entitled.

Her comments came as she wrote to all GPs and NHS trusts to remind them of the danger of potentially lethal secondary infections piggy-backing on the flu virus.

Challenged over whether it was time for all young children to be vaccinated, Prof Davies said that the bulk of the 112 verified deaths from flu since September had come among the working-age population, with just six under-fives and 16 over-65s.

“This isn’t about cost-cutting,” she told Sky News. “This is about focusing our efforts on those who are most at risk.

“The data from the pandemic last year showed - and this year’s data is very similar - that if you are in an at-risk group you are 18 times more likely to die of flu if you catch it than a healthy person, so we need to focus on getting those at risk to come forward and have vaccinations.”

After earlier complaints that the failure to advertise flu jabs had led to low take-up rates this winter, Prof Davies said that vaccination rates were now at normal levels for the time of year.

But she said that only 70% of eligible over-65s and 46% of at-risk patients below that age had so far been vaccinated.

“That means over half of the people at risk in the young children and working age groups are not coming forward for vaccination,” she said.

Prof Davies said that the flu virus made sufferers more vulnerable to other infections which could prove fatal, and confirmed that she had written to health professionals to remind them of the danger.

“It is a threat every winter with seasonal flu,” she said. “People can die directly from flu affecting their lungs and making their lungs not work properly, but many of the deaths relate to bacteria infecting their lungs when they are weak.

“It is not abnormal, but we are seeing quite a high rate. They may have started with these bacterial infections and then got flu, or they may acquire those infections. Doctors need to be aware to give the right antibiotics.”


Readers' comments (4)

  • I find this whole issue intriging. It really does highlight the basic response of the medical profession is about illness and disease, and then what medication or technology will defeat the enemy. It says shockingly little about what to do to improve your own immune systems and health in order to either avoid or lessen the severity of, eg. flu, should you come down with it. There's an insidious undercurrent of suggestion of victimhood of any condition rather than an empowering or enabling response which questions, 'what else can I do, what choices do I have?'
    My ongoing sense is of a play of power and the politics of that, who's got it, who hasn't and how much does it cost?
    I wish I could see some leadership in this.

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  • As a Practice Nurse, I have been in the "firing line" for those worried well, wanting flu vaccinations fr their healthy children. I was heavily involved last year, in vaccinting all under 5's with the swine flu vaccine!!Most parents refused it!!!! Though I feel terribly sorry for the family of the little girl who died and cannot begin to imagine what they are going through, I do question how they can insist on all children having the vaccine this year when their child will have been offered it last year!!

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  • Hans christian anderson about again is he
    not down to cost please !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    anon 8.13pm patient choice have you forgotten that ? surely patients/parents are allowed to make choices and change their minds

    and your right about one thing in a million years travelling to outer space in another solar system you can not possibly imagine what those parents are going through

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  • I agree, the parents of the child who recently died must be having a hell of a time. And the practice nurses will be having a time of it as well being the first port of call for what is coined as the 'worried well'. However I can imagine how anxiety would be an issue for people who are not in the industry, who have been frightened by all the headlines and have realised that they or their loved ones may be in the at risk groups. I would be the 'worried well' in that case! As awful as it is when someone dies, especially a child so early in life, we have to question what effect the vaccination would have had as well? Even when you've done all that you reasonabley can, s**t still happens and to pretend its a simple and direct certainty that if you do A then B will not happen, is underestimating the human condition and being a bit optimistic with the laws of predictability. We have to be careful I think about what expectations we fuel in trying to be helpful and sometimes, with the best of intentions, our avoidance of reality. We have to be able to admit that we don't know.

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