Around 90 MPs and Peers today attended Westminster Flu Day, a flu vaccine clinic held in the House of Commons, to encourage their constituents to get this season’s flu vaccine in line with Government recommendations.
Parliamentarians who would not be eligible for a free seasonal flu vaccination on the NHS made a £10 donation to the Disasters Emergency Committee. £10 is equivalent to the average cost of a private vaccination.
Dr Dan Poulter MP, Minister for Health, said:
"The seasonal flu vaccination is important to help protect those people who are more susceptible to serious complications or even death from flu. I would encourage all those that are over the age of 65 or are in one of the ‘at risk’ groups to visit their surgeries and get vaccinated."
Chris Skidmore MP (Conservative, Kingswood) hosted the event in Parliament and said:
"I am delighted that so many of my colleagues turned up today to receive their flu vaccinations. Westminster Flu Day is a really important way of highlighting to our constituents the importance of flu vaccination for those over the age of 65 or under the age of 65 but in an at-risk group."
Seasonal flu (influenza) is a highly infectious illness and it is important for those most at risk to be vaccinated against it. Each year, flu can put a considerable burden on NHS resources, with numerous GP consultations and hospitalisations. In England and Wales, influenza accounts for over 400,000 general practitioner consultations annually.
In England, 11,000 elderly respiratory hospital admissions during epidemics of influenza cost the UK health service over £22 million every winter. It is estimated that in excess of 6 million working days are lost in the UK due to seasonal influenza every year. The consequences of influenza can also be fatal.
The Department of Health recommends free flu vaccinations for those aged 65 or over; and for people with certain chronic conditions such as respiratory disease (including asthma); heart, renal, liver or neurological disease; diabetes; low immune systems; as well as people living in long-stay facilities such as nursing and residential homes, and carers of elderly or disabled people. Healthcare professionals are also encouraged to have the vaccination, as well as pregnant women. A programme to vaccinate children will be rolled out from 2013 starting with children aged two and three.
The NHS has a very successful seasonal flu programme. The uptake rate for flu vaccines in those aged 65 and over was 73.4% in 2012/13, which is just below the WHO target of 75%. The Department of Health, however, wants to improve the uptake rates for those people under 65 years of age with clinical conditions which put them more at risk from the effects of flu. This currently stands at 51.3%, and the Department hopes to increase it to 75%. Uptake among pregnant women in 2012/13 was only 40.3% and amongst healthcare workers the uptake was only 45.6%.
The ABPI Vaccine Group is working hard with the Department of Health to understand how we can improve implementation of the seasonal flu programme in the at-risk groups and amongst pregnant women and healthcare professionals.
Westminster Flu Day is an established event in the Parliamentary calendar. It is sponsored by the ABPI Vaccine Group and is supported by the Department of Health as a useful way to highlight the importance of flu vaccination.
From left to right: Jane Ellison MP, Public Health Minister; Margot James MP, Westminster Flu Day (WFD) Sponsor; Henry Smith MP, WFD Sponsor; Graeme Whitehouse, Chair of the ABPI Vaccine Group; Dr Dan Poulter MP, Minister for Health; and Chris Skidmore MP, WFD Sponsor.
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About the ABPI Vaccine Group
The ABPI Vaccine Group is committed to advocating on behalf of the industry on all aspects of vaccination and the benefits it brings to the health of our nation. The Group aims to work in partnership with the public health community throughout the four nations of the UK to encourage the continued and further success of the national immunisation programmes.
The member companies of the ABPI Vaccine Group are: