A possible major flu crisis is causing “deep concern” among senior GPs in the UK.
Local medical councils and individual GP practices have reported that fewer patients who fall into at-risk groups - such as pregnant women and those with heart disease and diabetes - are requesting the seasonal flu jab.
The vaccine protects against swine flu, which is again a threat this winter, as well as others such as flu type B.
The Department of Health recommends that even those people in at-risk groups who received the swine flu jab last winter would be best coming forward for the new seasonal vaccine..
Lower immunisation rates have increased fears that a normal seasonal flu outbreak could prove much more serious this time, according to the British Medical Association (BMA).
An estimated 67.2% of over-65s and 41.5% of under-65s in at-risk groups have had the flu jab in England.
This is just behind last year’s figure for the over-65s, but 5% behind vaccination rates seen this time last year for at-risk groups.
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: “Family doctors are already seeing high rates of influenza and they have been telling us that they are also seeing a lower uptake than usual for seasonal flu immunisation.
“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.”