MORE than 41,000 Bolton residents at highest risk of contracting flu missed out on a free vaccine jab last year.

New figures from NHS England and Public Health England show that almost 60 per cent of elderly people, young children, and pregnant women did not get their vaccination.

Sir David Crausby, MP for Bolton North East, has now urged residents to take the proper precautions as winter approaches.

He said: “Getting the flu can be bad enough for even the fittest of us, but for older people and those with long-term conditions in particular it can cause serious health problems.

“We’ve already seen hospitals in Australia under strain during their flu season and I don’t want to see local residents struggle like that.

“Getting the flu jab is free and easy, and offers the best chance of avoiding the flu that we have.

“I’ve already had mine and I’d urge all those eligible to speak to your GP or local pharmacist and get your vaccination booked in before the cold weather sets in.”

According to the official statistics, more than 17,000 of Bolton’s over-65s in at risk groups missed out on their flu jab last year, as well as 13,656 other older people.

More than 8,000 children aged between two and four also didn’t get the vaccine, including 221 who were classed as at-risk.

A total of 1,538 pregnant women with no long-term conditions and 110 pregnant women with long-term conditions also didn’t get protected.

This year, more people than ever — around 21 million — will be offered the vaccination. Children in school year four will be offered the vaccine for the first time and children over age four in reception year can get their vaccine in school.

A £10 million programme will also see a free vaccination offered to all care home workers via their GP or pharmacist.

NHS Bolton CCG chairman Dr Wirin Bhatiani said: “The uptake across the country is not as it should be and last year it was a little bit worse. Lots of adults and children are eligible for the free vaccination.

"It does make a difference to A&E, if there is a flu outbreak the number of people ending up in hospital significantly increase.

"The biggest myth about vaccination is it can make you feel unwell and we are trying hard to best this myth.

"The flu vaccine does not make you feel unwell, the flu vaccine does not contain the live flu virus. Often people who feel worse after having it blame the vaccine but it is just a coincidence. It is the biggest issue I face as a GP when suggesting the vaccine.

"Let’s bust this myth.”

The Chief Medical Officer warned last week that flu and complications associated with it cause 8,000 deaths on average a year in England.