Nearly one million morbidly obese people should be given the free flu jab because they are so unfit they have a greater chance of picking up the disease, health advisors have said.
The move to include nearly one million extra people in the annual vaccination programme could put severe financial and staffing pressures on the NHS and doctor’s surgeries. In 2012 doctors ran out of the jab because of demand from the ‘worried well.’
Public Health England said it was considering the proposal and would make a decision later in the year. It is likely be too late for next winter’s flu season as stock orders are usually made in the Spring.
Morbid obesity is defined as a Body Mass Index (a measure of weight in relation to height) of 40 or more.
In the UK, about three women in every 100 and one man in every 100 fit into this category, which equates to around 800,000 women and 250,000 men although some of those people would already be eligible.
Vaccinating the morbidly obese would put obesity in the same league as asthma, diabetes and heart disease. Pensioners, young children and pregnant women are also advised to have the flu jab.
Previous studies have suggested that a large number of patients around the globe who died or ended up in hospital with H1N1 swine flu were morbidly obese. While some very obese people might already be eligible for the flu jab because of co-existing health problems, the majority will not be, experts said.