Ineffective flu jab blamed as extra winter deaths hit 40-year high

The number of winter deaths last year hit a record high in more than 40 years. With an estimated 50,100 excess winter deaths in England and Wales in 2017/18 – the highest recorded since winter 1975/76, experts blame the failure of last year’s flu jab to adequately protect members of the public from the influenza virus.

The worst protection was among over 65s – the age group most vulnerable to flu – with effectiveness of 10.1 per cent and none at all against some key strains, leading to 15,000 deaths from the virus, around twice the average figure, and the worst NHS performance on record.

ILC research showed that there was a desperate need for better flu vaccines. Following the peak in winter deaths last year, health officials have now introduced new types of flu jabs in the hope of averting a similar crisis this winter.

This year pensioners are being offered a boosted jab, found to better protect the elderly. However, there have been concerns about the lateness of the decision to order the new types of vaccination.

Caroline Abrahams, Age UK’s Charity Director, said:

“We know such high levels of excess winter deaths are not inevitable.  As a country we are not doing enough to ensure our older population stays warm and well warm, well and protected from winter flu throughout the harsh winter months.”

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