Thousands of people are putting their health at risk by not taking advantage of flu jabs.
More than 200,000 people in Sussex who are eligible for the winter vaccine have so far failed to take up the offer.
And that figure includes many in the Eastbourne area, which is covered by East Sussex Downs and Weald Primary Care Trust.
The health authority, which runs GP services in the town, released figures this week which showed the extent to which people are giving the free jabs a miss.
Around 62,000 people aged 65 and over qualify for the injection in the area covered by the PCT. However, just 35,682 people have had one – a per centage of just 57.3%. That is down from 62.8 per cent last year.
And in the same area, just 8,367 of people with a long-term medical condition have had the jab out of a total number of 23,527 – with health experts warning that people with things like asthma, diabetes, heart disease and multiple sclerosis are risking their health by failing to get vaccinated against winter flu.
The other section of the population included in the statistics are pregnant women, with 522, or 31.1 per cent, of the 1,678 having the jab. This number is up on last year, when only 19 per cent did.
Julia Dutchman-Bailey, chief nurse at NHS Sussex, warned, “People should not under-estimate the dangers of seasonal flu. Even a mild flu season can contribute to more than 2,000 deaths each winter across the country – the majority of which could be prevented if those people had been vaccinated against the seasonal flu virus.
“Flu is a highly infectious illness and people with who are already vulnerable can become seriously ill and may require hospital treatment if they catch flu.
“These are only early figures in terms of the uptake and we hope that they increase significantly over the next few weeks. We want to encourage everyone who is eligible to take this seriously and look after their own health and protect themselves and those around them.
“The jab is available for free at your GP surgery and I would strongly advise anyone who has not yet had the jab to contact their practice to make an appointment as soon as possible.”
More information on flu jabs is available online at www.nhs.uk/conditions/Flu-jab/Pages/Introduction.aspx.
Anyone who does not know whether or not they qualify for the injection, or who wants to take advantage of the vaccination, should contact their GP immediately.