A quarter of patients aged 65 and over in Essex have not been vaccinated against influenza, new figures reveal.

The NHS offers free flu jabs to the most vulnerable patients – such as those in older age groups, with weaker immune systems, or pregnant women.

But new figures show just 75 per cent of 316,000 patients aged 65 and over in Essex had received a vaccine by the end of November, with the rest more at risk from the illness.

This was just under the national average of 76 per cent at the end of November.

More recent figures – only available for England as a whole – show this figure has since increased slightly, to 77 per cent, but the NHS warned it is lower than at the same point last winter.

Official NHS guidance says vaccinations remain "critically important", reducing the burden on the health service as it deals with regular winter pressures and the continued fall-out of the coronavirus pandemic.

Vulnerable people under 65 had lower coverage, with 36 per cent vaccinated in Essex.

Uptake among pregnant women was at just 26 per cent at the end of November.

Caroline Abrahams, of Age UK, urged older people to get vaccinated against flu and Covid-19.

She said: "Flu vaccines help protect against the main types of flu viruses and although there's still a chance we might get flu even after vaccination, the symptoms are likely to be milder and more short-lived."

She added: "With all the worries about the rising cost of living and energy prices and with the additional pressures on the NHS at winter time, it’s more important than ever to stay fit and well this year, and getting these vaccinations will help."

Dr Mary Ramsay, director of public health programmes at UKHSA, said infections are rising as people socialise indoors over the festive season.

"Nobody wants to get their new year off to a bad start, so be sure to gift yourself the best possible protection against flu and Covid-19 as we head into peak season.

"Pregnant women and those in clinical risk groups are at higher risk of complications from flu, but over 60 per cent of these groups remain unvaccinated, so we urge them to come forward."

Dr Ramsay said those eligible should speak to their GP – adding that many pharmacies offer free bookable and walk-in vaccinations.