flu vaccineMore than half of UK healthcare professionals (HCPs) believe the main reason at-risk patients do not take up flu vaccination is because they are concerned the vaccine itself could give them flu-like symptoms, according to results of a survey released today.

53% of UK HCPs surveyed rated this as the top reason why they think at-risk patients – including over 65 year olds, pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems because of other diseases – miss out on vaccination. It ranked in the top five reasons of 94% of respondents.

The next biggest concern for HCPs was that patients who have not previously had flu do not consider themselves at risk, with 86% placing this in the top five reasons patients miss the jab. And 76 % said patients being unaware of the increased risk of complications from flu were among the top five reasons.

Flu is an infectious viral illness spread by coughs and sneezes. It is different from the common cold because it is caused by different viruses and tends to result in more severe and long-lasting symptoms. Flu can be prevented through good hygiene, vaccination and, in some cases, antiviral medication.

During the last flu season, uptake of the flu vaccine varied in at risk groups with just around 40% of pregnant women and 73% of over 65s being immunised across England.

Dr Michael England, medical director for vaccines at GSK, said: “The flu season is fast-approaching and the surprising results of our survey show that there’s more HCPs can be doing in the coming months to help debunk myths around flu vaccination, especially among patients who are most at-risk of catching the infection.

“It’s important that HCPs explain how serious flu can be and that it can be prevented through simple measures like regular hand washing and using tissues to catch germs when sneezing, but also through vaccination. It’s very worrying if one of these measures is not being used for a reason that is simply down to a misunderstanding.”