PATIENTS in Halton will be among the first in the country to receive this year's flu vaccine following a national delay in supplies.
The hold-up was caused by a problem encountered by manufacturers of this year's influenza vaccine, meaning a delay to the start of the annual immunisation programme.
Eileen O'Meara, Deputy Director of Public Health at Halton, said: 'A number of local GP practices have now received supplies and there will be a phased delivery to practices depending upon the manufacturer with whom they placed their order.
'GPs order their vaccine from different manufacturers and all orders are placed immediately after the previous year's vaccination campaign in December and January.'
Flu is a serious illness for older people as it can lead to long-lasting complications, such as bronchitis and pneumonia, or even death. That is why, every autumn, GPs offer free flu vaccinations to over 65s and other people whose health condition places them at risk of serious complications should they catch flu.
Eileen added: 'The vast majority of deaths related to flu are among the over 65s or people in an 'at risk' group. On average, 5,000 lives are saved every year as a result of the jab.
'We would urge everyone eligible for a free flu jab to contact their GP practice to check availability of vaccine and book an appointment.
'Even if you had a flu jab last year, the vaccine is only effective for 12 months.
'Contrary to any myths surrounding the flu jab, it is safe and effective. Most people experience no or only very minor side effects and the vaccine cannot give you flu.'