Professor Liam Donaldson, England's new chief medical officer, this week launched a national campaign to make clinicians and the public aware of the importance of flu vaccinations.

The campaign will target people over 75 and other at-risk groups in a bid to reduce deaths and hospital admissions. Evidence showed that vaccination could reduce hospital admissions by between 48 and 57 per cent and halve infection, Professor Donaldson said.

'Even in non-epidemic winters , upwards of 3,000 to 4,000 deaths are partly or predominantly attributable to flu complications. Yet studies indicate that only around half of those 'at risk' are vaccinated every year,' he said.