The government has unveiled plans to offer flu jabs to more than 14 million people to protect them against the swine flu virus (H1N1) and two other strains of flu.
The Department of Health revealed GPs are about to start administering the vaccines and should complete the £100m programme by December.
Under the plans, all pregnant women will be offered the seasonal flu jab for the first time, while pensioners, people with conditions like diabetes and health workers have also been urged to make appointment to receive the preventive injections.
Professor David Salisbury, the government's director of immunisation, insisted that patients would be "foolhardy" to not have the vaccine because of fears about the swine flu strain.
He said: "To not have the vaccine because of a prejudice about swine flu is putting yourself at unnecessary risk. That attitude is ignoring the realities of the risk."
Take-up for seasonal flu jabs usually varies between approximately 75% for the elderly, 50% for those with health conditions and 10% for healthcare staff.
"The take up for seasonal flu is expected to be lower than average this year due to the inclusion of H1N1. No matter that the Prof says people would be foolhardy to miss out, it does not address the genuine negative feelings about the flu vaccine either with or without H1N1. How much of an outcry would it cause to suggest that for one year we cancel the programme to see what if any difference it makes. I cannot recollect people dying in droves prior to the programme being set up and it would be interesting to find out how many lives are saved due to having the vaccine" - Nurse, Lancs