Flu toll up as adverts axed

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SOUTH Yorkshire MP and shadow health secretary John Healey has blamed a rise in swine flu deaths on a decision to cancel adverts for the winter flu vaccination.

The jabs are provided to pensioners and vulnerable groups at risk from the virus.

The Health Protection Agency said the number of people killed by swine flu rose from 474 in 2009/10 to 535 in 2010/11.

Mr Healey, Labour MP for Wentworth and Dearne, said: “A large part of the blame for the rise in deaths from swine flu last winter lies at the door of health secretary Andrew Lansley.

“He’s the one who cancelled the flu-jab advertising campaign that had previously targeted those most at risk. The Health Secretary should make clear what lessons he has learnt to prevent this happening again.”

Professor John Watson, of the Health Protection Authority, said the annual flu report showed that seasonal flu activity in 2010/11 was higher than last winter, with swine flu the dominant strain.