Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Low Graphics

Friday, October 22, 1999 Published at 09:59 GMT 10:59 UK


Flu jab campaign launched

The flu season starts in October

The government's chief medical officer is urging people to be immunised for flu - but only the elderly and those with certain chronic diseases.

Next week is "flu awareness week", with doctors hoping to improve on the 40% of vulnerable people who were vaccinated last year.

But some health authorities claim that the campaign could be compromised by "patchy" supplies of the flu vaccine.

Between 3,000 and 4,000 people die each year from illnesses which can be either fully, or partly blamed on flu infections.

Many elderly or sick people will suffer from flu, then, while weak, fall prey to a secondary infection, such as pneumonia, which proves fatal.

Prof Liam Donaldson: "There's no point in giving a jab to the whole population"
Professor Liam Donaldson, launching the campaign, outlined exactly who should get the jab on the NHS.

Those most at risk are those over the age of 75, or those living in residential nursing homes.

The key risk groups are people with:

  • Chronic respiratory illness such as asthma or bronchitis
  • Chronic renal disease
  • Heart disease sufferers
  • Diabetes patients
  • People with suppressed immune systems

Professor Donaldson said: "We know that not enough people in these risk groups have been immunised each year.

'No problem for healthy'

"While the occasional bout of flu is not a serious matter for most healthy people, it can lead to serious complications such as pneumonia or bronchitis for others.

"I'm asking people to think about family or friends who may need the vaccine."

He said that younger, fitter people who have flu jabs may be sacrificing longer term immunity from the disease for short term benefits.

He said: "There is no point really giving the jab to the whole population because the immunity you get is quite short-lived."

Avon Health Authority has complained that the supply of vaccines has been "patchy" this year, but Professor Donaldson said that the way the scheme was organised made it less efficient than childhood vaccination programmes.

Instead of being personally invited to come for innoculation, patients attend GP surgeries on their own initiative, meaning the precise number of required jabs is not known.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

Health Contents

Background Briefings
Medical notes

Relevant Stories

04 Oct 99 | Health
Flu drug row intensifies

18 Feb 99 | Medical notes
Flu: The facts

07 Jan 99 | Health
Public urged to take flu vaccine

06 Jan 99 | Health
Flu surges as waiting lists fall

05 Jan 99 | Health
Extra cash to fight flu crisis

Internet Links

International Influenza Education Panel

Department of Health - chief medical officer

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Disability in depth

Spotlight: Bristol inquiry

Antibiotics: A fading wonder

Mental health: An overview

Alternative medicine: A growth industry

The meningitis files

Long-term care: A special report

Aids up close

From cradle to grave

NHS reforms: A guide

NHS Performance 1999

From Special Report
NHS in crisis: Special report

British Medical Association conference '99

Royal College of Nursing conference '99