Hundreds of thousands of adults with health conditions like asthma and diabetes are putting themselves at risk by missing out on potentially life-saving protection, the CMO warns.
This year, the flu strain that is circulating particularly affects adults in at-risk groups but latest figures show that only 45.7% of under 65s eligible for the free vaccination have had the jab this season, compared to 46.9% at the same time in 2017/18 and 47.4% in 2016/17.
Provisional data suggests this year’s vaccine is so far well matched to circulating strains of flu.
For over 65s, despite a new vaccine that promises better protection against flu, there has also been a decline in uptake this season compared to the same time last year, with 70.5% of over 65s having the jab so far in 2018/19 compared to 71.3% at the same point in 2017/18.
This is even more vital as the colder weather continues – each year there are an average of 8,000 deaths related to flu complications.
Commenting, Professor Dame Sally Davies, chief medical officer for England said: “We know that as a rule, flu can be particularly deadly in older people, but the new aTIV vaccine available this season offers better protection than before. I always make sure I get my flu jab as a doctor and now as someone aged over 65.
“It’s getting colder and flu is going around, but it is not too late to get the jab - please get in touch with your GP or pharmacist urgently to get the free flu vaccine.”
Minister for public health, Steve Brine, said: “Our vaccine this year appears well matched to the strains circulating, it’s vital that those eligible take advantage of our world-leading free vaccination programme. Not only will you protect yourself, but those around you. It’s time to do your bit in preventing this debilitating illness from spreading.”