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Flu vaccination uptake slipping back

Latest flu vaccination figures show overall coverage has slipped back to below last year’s levels, despite public health officials’ calls to boost uptake.

The latest monthly figures – based on data collected from 98% of GP practices – showed that just 69.8% of over-65s had received their flu jab by the end of December last year, compared with 71.5% at the same stage of the 2014/15 flu season.

Coverage is even further behind for under-65s in clinical risk groups, with only 43.6% of eligible patients receiving the vaccination compared with 48.5% last year.

And only 41.4% of pregnant women - compared with 43.0% last year – had received their jab.

The figures suggest that Public Health England’s earlier claims that uptake had improved slightly this year – at least for over-65s and pregnant women – were premature.

Coverage is also lagging across all the childhood cohorts, with 34% of two-year-olds vaccinated compared with 37% last year, 36% of three-year-olds (compared with 40% in 2014/15) and 29% of four-year-olds (compared with 31% last year).

The latest results come after GP leaders warned that NHS England’s new pharmacy scheme to help capture ‘hard-to-reach’ patients was not having any impact on uptake in at-risk groups, while at the same time draining practices of much-needed income as a result of lost flu payments.

Public health leaders said it was not possible to tell why uptake had taken a dip.

Dr Richard Pebody, head of flu surveillance for Public Health England, said: ‘While it’s great to see so many people taking steps to protect against flu this season, there has been a small, apparent drop in vaccine uptake across risk groups compared to the same point last flu season.

‘At this stage it’s not possible to ascribe a dip in coverage to any single cause, but we will review carefully as part of our end season analysis. Flu vaccination remains the best way for those at highest risk of the severe effects of the virus to protect themselves and others from flu this winter.’


Readers' comments (23)

  • Dear highly decorated public health doctors,
    We GP's told you this would happen but you didn't listen. Now look. Maybe if we had asked our local MP's to lobby you, you would have been prepared to listen. Shameful.
    Enjoy your New Years honours.

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  • A classic example showing fragmentation of services does not lead to a better service

    In our practice there has been confusion about which have patients have had flu jabs and which haven't. The pharmacies have been quite aggressive getting patients in.

    We have been left with quite a few flu jab and financially not been chasing patietns as much.

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  • But what is the explanation/excuse for the decline in uptake of childhood vaccine? Pharmacies were not involved in this.

    Negative press is the most sensible explanation for a drop in uptake. I can't see how having a McDonalds and a Burger King in town would decrease overall burger sales.

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  • GP Partner|29 Jan 2016 5:26pm

    I'm puzzled. You say that in your practice there's been confusion about which patients have had flu jabs and you then accuse pharmacists of being aggressive.
    Have local pharmacists been telling you which patients have been vaccinated? If not, complain. If they have, then its down to your record keeping.
    You then say you've not been chasing patients, but you've been left with some flu jabs. Whose fault is that, then?

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  • It is obvious that this is because of the stupid pharmacy scheme.
    It has played havoc with ordering of vaccines. Pharmacy have been appalling in the aggressive poaching of patients and bizarre bending of the rules.

    The logical decision would be to abandon this scheme and increase funding for GP provision. However I think lobbying from big business was behind this in the first place so I suspect it will remain and take up will decline further

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  • Sorry pharmacists but you cannot deny the following facts.
    1. Since introducing pharmacy flu vaccs, uptake has fallen.
    2. Some pharmacists (11% according to the Guardian) have been selling NHS priced medication overseas leaving our country short.
    Please. I know you are not all bad but stop denying that there is a significant hardcore element in the pharmacy trade who are hard-nosed business people who do not care about the greater good.

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  • The justification given for destabilising the GP system was actually to increase uptake by "improving access" so clearly not a success whatever way one looks at it.

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  • Answer the question!! Explain the drop in childhood vaccination, which had no pharmacy interference.

    Was there negative publicity re. vaccine effectiveness prior to the vaccination season in the previous year?

    I thought you guys worked to an evidence base. We are on one hand guilty of aggressively poaching patients, which has then resulted in a reduced uptake. Tosh!

    A pharmacy owner is a businessman just as a GP partner is. If you're not then you don't survive. I know of GP dispensaries that wholesale to a co-located GP owned pharmacy. Now isn't that a little hard-nosed.

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  • OK 8.51 you want me to spell out the obvious?

    How about the fact that we don’t care about any of it anymore? Why would we chase these harder to reach patients whilst you cherry pick the easy ones? Want me to draw you a picture?!!!
    I can see why I got into medical school and others did not!

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  • Still no answer. If these patients are so 'hard to reach' maybe practices shouldn't receive a payment for them?

    Are you really that clever? Googling conditions and chucking antibiotics at patients. I never applied to medical school. I often question why I became a pharmacist, but it's not when I'm looking at what GP's do for a living.

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