East of England NHS leaders urge eligible people to get their free flu jab as numbers in hospital remain high

18th January 2023

NHS leaders in the east of England are urging eligible people to get their free NHS flu vaccine as thousands of people across the country are still in hospital with flu and hundreds in critical care, as levels of flu circulating remains high.

With hospital admission rates for flu currently matching the highest rates in the years just before the COVID-19 pandemic (2019/20 and 2018/19), the NHS is reminding people that it is not too late to get their flu vaccine and get protected.  Thousands of sites are offering the vaccine across the country and health leaders in the east of England are urging eligible people to come forward as soon as possible.

Hospitalisation rates are highest for older adults and young children.

Nationally, vaccine uptake in children aged two to three is behind last year’s figures. Only around 40% of children aged 2-3 years old (40.4% of two-year-olds, 42.9% of three-year-olds) have received their flu jab so far this year – down 7% points on last year.

In the east of England, it is estimated that vaccine uptake in children aged two to three is also behind last year’s figures. On average 45.6% of 2-3s in the east of England have received their vaccine so far this year (44.8% of 2 year olds, 46.3% of 3 year olds), compared to 52.1% this time last year (50.8% of 2 year olds, 53.5% of 3 year olds).

“Across the east of England we’ve seen a significant rise in the number of flu patients, and at points there have been more than 100 times the number of flu patients in hospital than last winter.

“Please do come forward for a vaccination, if eligible.”

Pregnant women, especially those who may have missed out as they weren’t pregnant earlier in the flu season, are also encouraged to come forwards for the flu vaccine to protect themselves and their unborn baby.

With high flu levels and the recent return to school and work, there is the potential for flu to spread. Getting the flu vaccine can protect against serious illness and ending up in hospital and also help prevent the spread of the virus onto others.

It is not too late for those that are eligible to get the flu vaccine.

Those aged 50 and over, adults with a long term health condition and pregnant women can make an appointment at their GP surgery or participating pharmacy.

Parents and guardians of children aged 2 and 3 and children in high risk groups can make an appointment through their GP surgery. Secondary school aged children are being vaccinated this month through schools and community clinics. If parents and guardians think their reception and primary school aged children have missed their flu vaccination, they should contact their local school-aged vaccination service or ask at their school if you are unsure.

Notes to editors

Those eligible for a free flu vaccination include:

  • People aged 50 and over
  • Those aged between six months and 49 years with a specified health condition
  • Pregnant women
  • Children aged 2 and 3 years old on 31 August 2022
  • Primary school aged children
  • Secondary school aged children in years 7,8 and 9
  • Those in care homes and carers
  • Household contacts of people with weakened immune systems.
  • Frontline social care staff who do not have access to occupational health schemes