Wednesday, August 19, 1998 Published at 16:15 GMT 17:15 UK
Over 75s to be offered 'flu jabs
Elderly people are more vulnerable
All pensioners aged more than 75 will be offered influenza vaccinations this winter, ministers have decided.
The new policy, recommended by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, has been implemented after evidence that elderly people are more likely than other age groups to suffer serious illness after contracting a 'flu virus.
The jab has previously only been recommended for those with underlying medical conditions which make them more prone to serious illness, and to those in long-stay residential accommodation, where the infection is likely to spread rapidly.
'Flu can be a killer
"Offering 'flu vaccinations to the elderly will prevent illness and suffering. I hope people will take advantage of this protection when they are contacted by their doctors."
Doctors and health authorities are being advised of the change in policy now to enable them to order extra vaccine and arrange to contact their older patients before October, when vaccination begins.
The Department of Health leaflets, "What should I do about flu" and "Flu vaccination" have been updated to reflect the new recommendations.
Help the Aged welcomed the new vaccination policy.
A spokeswoman said: "It has always concerned us that older people are more vulnerable to flu and we are especially concerned for those living in nursing and residential homes and other long-stay facilities.
"Far too many elderly people suffer extreme discomfort and, far too often, die as a result of 'flu, and Help the Aged would like to redress that balance."
More resources needed
Dr George Rae, chairman of the BMA GPs prescribing sub-committee, welcomed the decision, but said doctors should be properly recompensed for taking on the extra work involved.
Dr Rae, a GP in north Tyneside, said: "I would have no argument with the decision in principle, because if you are elderly and you get 'flu it can tip the balance as far as general health is concerned.
"But undoubtedly it will mean more workload for the primary care team and it is only fair that some sort of resource is made available."