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New flu jab announced for next winter

By
WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Farah Ahmed
syringe

8th February 2018 – GPs and pharmacists in England are being advised to order a different type of flu vaccine ahead of next winter.

An adjuvanted trivalent vaccine called Fluad has been shown to boost immunity in adults aged 65 and over.

The vaccine was not available for this winter because it was only approved for UK use last summer.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, says in a statement:  "We're pleased that we now have definitive guidance from NHS England, and we hope this will build confidence amongst patients and encourage greater take-up, particularly for those in at-risk groups."
 

Winter deaths

The announcement comes as flu and cold weather are being identified as the likely cause of a spike in deaths among older people this winter.

Latest figures show the number of deaths among those aged 65 and over in England during the cold months so far are similar to that seen in the winter of 2014-15. A similar picture has been seen in Northern Ireland.

Seasonal flu levels remain high but are continuing to stabilise. According to Public Health England (PHE), it has been the most significant flu season since 2010 to 2011 in terms of the number of people seeing their GP with flu-like symptoms. However, it says the 2017 to 2018 season is less severe at this stage than in 2010 to 2011. 

Richard Pebody, acting head of the Respiratory Diseases Department at PHE comments in a statement: "We are continuing to see flu circulate, with signs that flu activity is stabilising.

"Rates of vaccination across all those eligible for the vaccine have increased on last season and we have vaccinated an additional one and a half million people." 

The main strains of flu circulating continue to be A(H3N2), sometimes called 'Aussie flu', another 'A' strain, H1N1, and Flu B, sometimes referred to as 'Japanese flu'.
 

GP consultations

Scotland has seen a significant drop in the number of GP consultations for flu-like symptoms from 82.3 per 100,000 of the population in week 4 to 45.5 in week 5. Health Protection Scotland says it is confident "we have now passed the peak in GP consultations".

A similar trend was seen in England where the rate fell from 54. to 43.0 per 100,000.

In Northern Ireland GP flu appointments dipped sharply from 44.2 to just 29.

However, Wales saw a slight rise in the number of people seeing their GP because of flu from 53 to 55 consultations per 100,000 people. But Public Health Wales says the overall trend is decreasing.
 

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