|Questions the Health Minister on the Flu Vaccination|
Edwin Poots (DUP)
I launched this year's seasonal flu vaccination programme on 27 September. This is its thirteenth year in Northern Ireland. Eligible groups are now familiar with the need to get vaccinated, which is one reason why Northern Ireland consistently achieves one of the highest uptakes in the UK. The vaccine is free for anyone in the target groups. Every year, thePublic Health Agency closely monitors the uptake in each GP practice and takes steps to improve it where it is low. The agency also runs training sessions for the healthcare staff who deliver the programme, and one of the aims of the training is to promote uptake by the target groups. In addition, this year, the agency will rerun a media campaign encouraging people to get vaccinated in advance of the flu season. Last year, that contributed to a 25% increase in the number of people coming forward to be vaccinated compared with 2010. That is vital in reducing serious complications and deaths from flu.
I thank the Minister for his answer. Will he provide us with further details on the public information campaign?
Edwin Poots (DUP)
The strapline for the campaign is:
"Flu is more serious than you think – so get the flu vaccination now."
Last year's campaign contributed to the uptake of the seasonal flu vaccination surpassing the target set by DHSSPS, with a 25% increase and the highest vaccination rates in the UK. It is important that we encourage this and encourage uptake by our professional staff. There are two new strains of flu this year, and all the indications from, for example, Australia, where the flu season happens earlier, are that there are fairly significant problems. So we want to encourage as many people as possible to get the flu vaccine