Flu Vaccine Rates 'Declined' After PR Campaign Scrapped

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Flu vaccination rates declined in more than 100 areas after the government scrapped the national awareness campaign, according to a Labour analysis of official figures.

One primary care trust - Havering in Essex - saw the uptake of vaccinations by "at risk" under-65s fall by a quarter, or 25.2%, in 2010/11 compared with 2009/10.

The second biggest drop was by 14.2% in Wolverhampton City, Labour said, with 107 out of 148 trusts in total showing a decrease.

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said the figures were the result of the coalition's "reckless" decision to end the national flu campaign.

Labour's analysis of the Department of Health figures comes after former chief medical officer Professor Sir Liam Donaldson said the move may may have contributed to a host of preventable deaths.

In a report, he concluded there were more fatalities and admissions to hospital in England in the winter of 2010/11 than during the flu pandemic the previous year.

Burnham said: "Andrew Lansley's decision to scrap the winter flu campaign just one year after a global flu pandemic was an early illustration of his reckless approach to the running of our health service.

"The health secretary ignored the advice of public health experts and these figures reveal the consequences on the ground of his arrogance and inability to listen.

"The government's failure to run a proper national campaign was a false economy. It created wide variation and put the public at greater risk with fewer vulnerable patients in two thirds of England taking up the flu vaccine."

The government's director of immunisation, Professor David Salisbury, said:

"There is always regional variation in the numbers of people who have the flu vaccine each year.

"But overall, more people - about half a million more - had the vaccine in 2010/11, when there was no national media advertising campaign, than the year before.

"Rather than having a paid for advertising campaign, we took a more targeted approach and asked GPs to contact their patients who were eligible for the vaccine. Once again we ran a hand hygiene campaign in an attempt to limit the spread of flu.

"Even more people had the vaccine this past winter - around an extra million compared to 2009/10 when we last ran the advertising campaign."

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