Sharon has urged residents across Washington and Sunderland West who are at risk of getting flu to get their free vaccine jab before winter sets in as it emerged that 36,397 missed out on protection last year across Sunderland.
Flu vaccination rates continue to climb across the country, but remain lower than ideal in many areas.
Sharon's call comes as the Chief Medical Officer warned that flu and complications associated with it cause 8,000 deaths on average a year in England - around 6,000 of which are people with existing heart and lung conditions.
And official figures show that just under 2.9m bed days were lost to flu and pneumonia last year in English hospitals, up almost 280,000 from the previous year – an 11% increase.
In the Washington and Sunderland area last year:
- 13,473 older people missed out on their jab, and among over-65s with long-term condition which make them more vulnerable to the effects of flu, just 48% were vaccinated.
- A further 16,624 working age people with long-term conditions also didn’t get the vaccine.
- Thousands of young children (2-4 year olds) also didn’t get the vaccine, including 124 who were classed as being at greater risk.
- 1215 pregnant women with no long-term conditions and 138 pregnant women with long-term conditions also didn’t get protected.
Sharon said: “We all try to avoid getting the flu during the cold winter months, as it can knock us all off our feet for a couple of days. That is why it is important that we all get vaccinated to protect ourselves from the flu. It is especially important for older people and those with long-term conditions in particular to get vaccinated as flu can cause serious health problems.
“Getting the flu jab is easy and offers the best chance of avoiding the flu and for those who are eligible, they can get it for free. I hope as many people from our local area will get vaccinated this winter and go and speak to your GP or local pharmacist about getting vaccinated before the cold weather sets in.”
This year, more people than ever – around 21 million - will be offered the vaccination. Children in school year 4 will be offered the vaccine for the first time and children over age 4 in reception year can get their vaccine in school.
A £10m programme will also see a free vaccination offered to all care home workers via their GP or pharmacist. Official figures show that older people are three times as likely to be admitted to hospital with flu if they live in a care home, with emergency flu and pneumonia admissions from care homes jumping by 16% last year alone to around 29,000.
The national drive marks the start of the Public Health England and NHS England’s joint Stay Well This Winter campaign, which helps the most vulnerable people prepare for winter and avoid having to visit hospital due to common winter illnesses.
More information on eligibility for the flu jab, and other tips on staying well this winter, can be found at www.nhs.uk/staywell