Who are the vulnerable groups?

When it comes to the flu, some people are more at risk than others. Some are more at risk of catching it; others are more at risk of suffering with it – even losing their lives.

And since those at highest risk are, for one reason or another, more likely to be paying us a visit, we must do all we can to protect them. We must act as role models and then motivate our patients to follow our lead.

Take a few minutes to understand how the flu might impact the different groups of vulnerable people you might care for. We hope it will show you how important it is for you to roll up your sleeve, get a shot, and save lives.

The chronically ill

If your patients with long-term illnesses – such as heart disease, diabetes, cancers, and chronic respiratory conditions – catch the flu, it is more likely to be severe. They are more likely to experience complications or even die.

These people are some of our most regular visitors. It is so vitally important that you and your colleagues don’t pass the flu to them when they come to see you. The best way you can do this is by getting a flu shot. After all, these vulnerable people should not be put under any additional and unnecessary risk when their bodies are already compromised.

But that’s only half the story. You should also encourage your patients with long-term illnesses to get a shot themselves. It may do more than just protect them from the flu. Did you know that flu vaccinations can also help reduce risk from their sometimes life-threatening conditions?

Young children

During their first years at school, children are particularly susceptible to flu attacks. They are three times more likely to catch flu than healthy adults, at greater than average risk from complications from severe flu, but more likely to survive an encounter than the elderly. Effective transmitters, they are prone to spreading the virus among friends and other family members.

We must halt the spread of the flu in school-age children if we are going to contain this virus – and that means ensuring we are vaccinated ourselves, and that they are vaccinated too.

Healthcare workers

The work we do means we are more likely to catch the flu. On top of normal exposure from the community, we risk being exposed to infected patients and then taking the virus home with us.

We are also at a higher risk of transmitting the flu to our own patients. A flu shot not only helps us protect ourselves, it ensures we don’t infect the people who are most at risk of severe complications, or even death, from the flu. Our own flu shot could help save lives as we stop bringing the flu in from the community to our place of work.


Fragile babies below six months old are too young to receive a flu shot. They rely solely on the immunity passed on by their mother during pregnancy and breastfeeding to protect them. Fragile and weak, they are 10 times more likely to be hospitalized with a flu-like illness than other babies and preschool-aged children.

Babies may not be able to have a shot themselves, but you can protect them. Make sure you don’t pass on the flu virus yourself; then encourage their mothers to follow your lead and get a shot too.

The elderly (aged >65)

Our elderly patients, friends, and family members are probably the most vulnerable group of people when it comes to the flu. Their immune systems are weakened with age . They are more likely to be affected by chronic illnesses such as diabetes, cancer, and heart conditions.

Not only are they more susceptible to flu infection, their flu is more likely to be severe. And, worse still, the resulting hospitalization and complications often have a long-term impact – a third of elderly patients are less independent and have higher care needs after a stay in the hospital.

Your own vaccination can reduce the risk of flu and death in your elderly patients . Their immune system is weakened and the flu vaccine is slightly less effective for them, so this is very important. And if you persuade them to get a shot too, you can help reduce severe illness and flu-related complications by up to 60%, deaths by 80% and hospitalizations by between 25 and 39%.

At a time when our population is aging, it is really important that we do all we can to ensure our elders are protected from the flu.

Pregnant women

Your pregnant patients are at higher than average risk of severe flu; especially after the first trimester when spontaneous abortion and/or death are a possibility.

Get a flu shot to protect these women and their babies. Encourage them to follow your lead. A flu shot would do more than just protect them. It would protect their unborn child during its first weeks of life, a time when it is particularly vulnerable.
We hope this has given you a good insight into how the flu impacts our patients. We hope it will inspire you to help protect them: to halt the spread, stop the suffering, and save lives.
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