dose flu vaccine, jab, pic by USACE

A Cheshire East health chief has warned of a “challenging winter” amid fears Covid will result in lower resilience to flu, writes Belinda Ryan.

Director of public health Dr Matt Tyrer said it was vital people got the message that they should be vaccinated for both conditions.

Speaking at today’s (July 13) meeting of the council’s adults and health committee, Dr Tyrer said: “Ultimately, it’s going to be a challenging winter.

“We will have Covid continuing to circulate among a population who have not encountered flu in the numbers that they have done in the previous flu season.

“This would suggest that we are likely to have slightly lower population level resilience when it comes to the movement of the flu virus over the course of the last 12 to 18 months.

“So it’s really paramount that we push the vaccines as hard as we can once again this year.”

He said hospital admissions with flu were very low over the past year, pointing out the council and NHS had pushed to get the vaccine uptake as high as possible and that, as part of a national programme, it had been offered free to more people including the over 50s.

Cllr Rob Vernon (Broken Cross and Upton, Labour) expressed concern about the low number of people in the eligible BAME population (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) who had received the flu jab

In Cheshire East, the uptake rate was just 48.3%.

“It’s frighteningly low,” said Cllr Vernon.

Cllr Stewart Gardiner (Knutsford, Con) said he shared the concerns raised by Cllr Vernon.

“Given that we have seen, in recent months, community groups within the BAME community and others try to encourage people to take up the vaccine – and there a number of reasons why people don’t – what worries me is that this is the eligible population and it’s highly probable that the number of people who are eligible that we’re not aware of in that community, is going to be bigger than it would be perhaps in the indigenous populations,” said Cllr Gardiner.

“I think we need to be trying to find a way of communicating with them.

“I know that, for Covid vaccinations, there was lots of innovative work undertaken, for instance in our Traveller communities, in the people who choose to live on the canal, and I think those are things we need to also be looking at.”

Cllr Gardiner also questioned why the overall uptake of the flu jab was so low among pregnant women – just 50.9% had had the flu vaccination.

And he expressed more concern over the number of people under 65 who were at risk and who hadn’t had the jab.

The uptake in this group was 58.8%.

“If you look at the total figure, as opposed to the percentage, that’s very worrying,” said the Knutsford councillor.

“That’s nearly 31,000 people who are considered to be at risk under 65 are not taking up the vaccine and that to me is worrying because, given that flu can kill – and if it can kill a healthy person – somebody who is considered to be at risk is far more likely to die than those people that are healthy.”

Dr Tyrer said the vaccine uptake was also very low among obese people with no other risk factors.

The committee agreed a number of recommendations including to target at risk and under-served population groups to increase uptake of the flu vaccination.

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