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Flu vaccine uptake shows signs of recovery

Flu vaccine uptake has improved this season for most patient groups targeted in the national vaccination campaign, latest public health figures suggest.

The data show that uptake has even recovered to 2014/15 season levels for under-65s in clinical risk groups, and pregnant women.

And, while uptake in over-65s is roughly the same as it was at this stage last year, coverage in children has also improved markedly on last season.

Flu vaccine uptake fell across all target groups last year, despite the introduction of a national pharmacy scheme designed to widen access. Experts have blamed last year’s dip on reports the previous year’s vaccine had not been very effective.

The latest available figures provide data on uptake up to the end of November 2016 and show:

  • For people in clinical risk groups, 44% have had their jab – up from 39% last year and on a par with 44% coverage seen in 2014/15.
  • For pregnant women, 42% have been vaccinated – up from 38% last year and even better than coverage at this stage of 2014/15 when it was at 39%.
  • However, for the over-65s, flu vaccine uptake is at 67% - the same as at this stage last year and still lower than the 69% achieved by end of November 2014/15

The figures for coverage in two-, three- and four-year-old cohorts, who are vaccinated exclusively by GPs, all show an improvement on last year.

For children in both in and not in clinical groups, combined:

  • 34% of two-year-olds have received their flu vaccination, compared with 29% this time last year;
  • 36% of two-year-olds have been vaccinated, up from 30% last year, and;
  • 29% of four-year-olds have had their vaccination, up from 25%.

Despite the improvements seen, the figures suggest there is still much work to be done to reach the target of 75% coverage in elderly and 55% in other clinical risk groups, and 'at least 40-65%' coverage in children, set by Public Health England.

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