More people than ever have been vaccinated against flu in Norfolk and Waveney amid  higher than usual demand.

The figures show GP practices and community pharmacies have vaccinated tens of thousands more people at greater risk from flu than this time last year.

By October 16, 168,000 people eligible for a free NHS vaccine had received one, compared to 122,000 last year, Norfolk and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said. 

Among the over 65s – the age group most vulnerable to flu – 126,500 people, or just short of 50 per cent of those living in the area had been vaccinated. 

Locally, the NHS is on track to reach and should exceed the 75 per cent target for vaccinations in the over 65s, the CCG said.

Chairman Dr Anoop Dhesi, a local GP, said: “Influenza is a nasty respiratory illness which kills around 15,000 people across the country each year. 

“It leaves many other people, particularly those with long term conditions and the frail elderly, so poorly that they have to be admitted to hospital.

“Getting the flu vaccine is more important than ever this year, as people at high risk from COVID-19 are also those most at risk from flu. 

“As well as helping to protect you and your family from a serious virus, getting vaccinated is also one way that you can help to ease pressure on the NHS and social care as they continue to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic this winter.” 

Early demand for the flu vaccine has been higher than usual and the government has recently announced how all GP surgeries can access additional national supplies of influenza vaccine, a CCG spokesman said.

“As flu levels generally do not begin to rise until December, people do not need to get vaccinated in September or October, as the vaccination programme continues right up until and into the flu season,” they added.

As well as offering the free flu vaccine to people who are at greatest risk, there is a national ambition to offer the vaccination to all people aged 50 to 64, who aren’t already in an at-risk group, later in the year. 

People in this age group should wait until they are invited for a vaccination. 

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