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Warnings over flu epidemic after jab uptake falls

Ministers have been urged to act now to avert an NHS winter crisis, after it emerged the uptake of flu vaccinations fell last year.

New figures have revealed fewer inoculations were administered in 2016/17 to all groups for whom the vaccination is recommended.

In the space of two years, the rate of over 65s getting the jab dropped by 3.3 per cent, while for at-risk under 65s the decrease was 9.1 per cent.

Pregnant women were also significantly less likely to be vaccinated, the official statistics showed.

Shadow health secretary Miles Briggs said the Scottish Government should act now to ensure take-up of the vaccine increases this time around, and explain how it intends to help health boards cope with the anticipated increased demand in coming months.

Experts said earlier this month that a flu epidemic in Australia was likely to hit the UK in coming months, and that it represented “the largest flu outbreak we’ve seen for some time”.

Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary Miles Briggs said:

“Given we had a mild winter last year, the Scottish Government may have to work harder to convince people of the need for a flu vaccination.

“We know uptake rates dropped across the board last year, especially among older people and those at-risk groups for whom flu could present serious complications.

“Our NHS is already struggling to cope with demand, and that will only intensify when the colder weather lands.

“We need to hear from the Scottish Government about how it intends to boost flu jab uptake, and what it plans to do to ensure hospitals across the country are not left high and dry in coming months.”

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