With a particularly nasty strain of “Aussie Flu” destined to land in the UK soon, the NHS is urging “at risk” groups to take advantage of the free flu vaccination programme. Healthwatch Newcastle would like to see an increase in the the number of people in Newcastle taking up this offer so is keen to find out what motivates people to have the vaccine and what puts them off.

Flu jabs are a good way of ensuring protection against the incoming winter flu virus. The vaccine works by stimulating the body’s immune system to make antibodies that then attack the flu virus. Certain groups of people are categorised as being “at risk”. These include those over 65 years of age, pregnant women, people with certain medical conditions such as asthma, residents of long-stay care homes and carers.

Rachel Wilkins, Healthwatch Newcastle Project Manager is carrying out a survey to find out why people are or are not taking advantage of the free vaccination.

“We value the opinions of the people who use health and care services in the city and their feedback will allow us to let NHS services know exactly what is motivating people and what is putting people off being vaccinated.  For example, people over the age of 65 are eligible for a free flu vaccine. In Newcastle, around 71% of people take up the free vaccination with the national target being 75%. Likewise, people with certain conditions such as respiratory conditions, diabetes, pregnant women are also eligible for a free flu vaccine with less than 65% of at risk people taking it up in Newcastle. Again, the national target is 75%. Even a small percentage increase in take up will potentially save lives this winter.

“We’re aware that some people think that the flu vaccination can make you ill. We are keen to find out exactly how many people think this and why, and what other thoughts people have about flu vaccination.”

Anyone wishing to take part in the confidential survey can contact Healthwatch Newcastle on 0808 178 9282 (free from landlines) and 0191 338 5020