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Publicity drive to support flu vaccination scrapped, GPC told

GPs face an uphill battle to maintain uptake rates for flu vaccination this year after NHS bosses told the GPC they were likely to scrap the annual national publicity drive to support the campaign.

The GPC said that Public Health England had decided they were not recommending a national flu advertising campaign this year, due to a lack of evidence that the advertising campaign had any positive effect on seasonal flu take-up rates.

The move comes as GPs prepare to vaccinate two- and three- year olds for the first time and after the RCGP’s immunisation lead told Pulse that the 75% coverage target for all risk groups target could not be reached without a national flu campaign funded by the Goverment.

As part of its winter flu plan for 2013/14, NHS England, the Department of Health, Public Health England said that the evidence showed that while a national campaign might play a role in raising awareness of the vaccine, it had a ‘limited impact’ on uptake levels.

It said: ‘Such a campaign cannot therefore replace proactive and personalised invitations from GPs to patients. GP practices therefore need to plan carefully to ensure that they are making every effort to identify and contact eligible patients before the flu season starts, and use any available ‘free’ communications channels to promote the vaccination message (such as the electronic booking system or patient newsletters).’

It added that centrally produced communication materials, such as leaflets, will be made available via NHS Choices, DH, PHE and NHS Comms Link websites and that GP practices may wish to use these materials as part of their awareness campaigns.

GPs should use their communication channels to educate patients about respiratory and hand hygiene throughout the flu season, by adding respiratory and hand hygiene footnote to all patient letters, emails, electronic booking systems and so forth, it said.

This month’s GPC News said that it had been told the advertising campaign was not going to be held this year. A spokesperson from the BMA confirmed that this was the case to Pulse.

It said: ‘Due to lack of evidence that advertising campaigns have any positive effect on seasonal flu take-up rates, Public Health England has decided against having an national flu campaign this year.

‘Their research found that whilst seasonal flu advertising did raise awareness of the vaccine it did not motivate people to get vaccinated.

‘It found the biggest positive influence on seasonal flu vaccine uptake was a recommendation from a health care practitioner, be that in person, via letter or telephone.’

A spokesperson from Public Health England said that it was still reviewing the plans for this year’s flu campaign.

She said: ‘We can confirm that seasonal flu advertising does raise awareness of the vaccine and that personal recommendation from a healthcare professional is one of the biggest motivators to get vaccinated.

‘Plans for this year’s national flu campaign are currently under review by the Department of Health, NHS England and Public Health England.’

This story was amended on 2nd August after Pulse was informed that there was an error in the GPC’s newsletter. The newsletter said NHS England had recommended the national flu publicity campaign should not be run this year. In fact, this was a recommendation by Public Health England.


Readers' comments (8)

  • Not a problem. Dept of health does not feel it necessary to be part of the 'team'.
    Must be a little worrying if the campaign left solely to GPs is les successful this year because headlines will read, Poor flu uptake, epidemic !! and hospital beds no longer available anywhere in the country.
    The extra expense will be many times more than any advertising campaign.
    Ever heard of penny wise and pound foolish

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  • The targets have been set so high that it also means they will have to pay us less. Is that just me being cycnical?

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  • Or is it because they have realised that this vaccine does not really work that a lot of the vaccinated get flu symptoms BAD plus a lot of other problems - but of course they cannot say that publicly!

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  • I agree, Soroush - no point advertising something that does not work. Actually, I have seen that only about 30% of doctors and nurses actually have the vaccine.

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  • Yawn!
    Roll out the anti-vaccination lobby!
    There is no increase in flu like symptoms in the vaccinated group in the 2 weeks after vaccination.
    Death in pregnancy from flu is increased, efficacy in the >65s is not as good as <65s but still worth doing. Flu is not a benign disease.
    The comment profile of the above 2 posts is not balanced and I don't suppose either have written death cerificates that state 1a)pneumonia secondry to Influenza
    When you do let me know.

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  • The background to the recent fervour of national publicity drives for Flu vaccinations occurred when the Labour government were elected and they threw money at any intervention that could possibly reduce the winter bed crisis. So it was politically motivated, as far as I am aware there is no robust evidence-base to support flu vaccinations, and the current government are returning to the previous conservative health policy.

    It is an interesting point that if there is evidence to support its use in specific groups, then perhaps it should be restricted to pregnant women and children.

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  • Roll out the pro-vaccination lobby!
    The flu vaccine efficacy is pathetic, but don't take it from the anti-vaccine lobby, take it from the Cochrane Collaboration, comprising thousands of scientists and researchers from over 100 countries, the gold standard of evidence-based medicine as they receive no monies from the pharmaceutical industry.

    PubMed: 20614424


    Influenza vaccines have a modest effect in reducing influenza symptoms and working days lost. There is no evidence that they affect complications, such as pneumonia, or transmission.WARNING: This review includes 15 out of 36 trials funded by industry (four had no funding declaration). An earlier systematic review of 274 influenza vaccine studies published up to 2007 found industry funded studies were published in more prestigious journals and cited more than other studies independently from methodological quality and size. Studies funded from public sources were significantly less likely to report conclusions favorable to the vaccines. The review showed that reliable evidence on influenza vaccines is thin but there is evidence of widespread manipulation of conclusions and spurious notoriety of the studies. The content and conclusions of this review should be interpreted in light of this finding.

    Or let's hear from Cochrane's Dr. Tom Jefferson during an interview with Spiegel:

    SPIEGEL: For a number of years, as part of the Cochrane Collaboration, you have been systematically evaluating all the studies on immunization against seasonal influenza. How good does it work?

    Jefferson: Not particularly good. An influenza vaccine is not working for the majority of influenza-like illnesses because it is only designed to combat influenza viruses. For that reason, the vaccine changes nothing when it comes to the heightened mortality rate during the winter months. And, even in the best of cases, the vaccine only works against influenza viruses to a limited degree. Among other things, there is always the danger that the flu virus in circulation will have changed by the time that the vaccine product is finished with the result that, in the worst case, the vaccine will be totally ineffectual. In the best of cases, the few decent studies that exist show that the vaccine mainly works with healthy young adults. With children and the elderly, it only helps a little, if at all.

    SPIEGEL: But aren't those the exact groups that influenza immunization is recommended for?

    Jefferson: Indeed. That's one of the contradictions between scientific findings and practice, between evidence and policy.

    SPIEGEL: So, what's behind this contradiction?

    Jefferson: Of course, that has something to do with the influence of the pharmaceutical industry. But it also has to do with the fact that the importance of influenza is completely overestimated. It has to do with research funds, power, influence and scientific reputations!

    SPIEGEL: So, at the moment is it reasonable to keep vaccinating against seasonal influenza?

    Jefferson: I can't see any reason for it, but I'm not a decision maker.

    Don't waste money promoting the flu vaccine. Cochrane concluded that in the vast majority of years where uptake isn't exceedingly high and they don't match the circulating strains, there isn't any evidence the vaccine is effective. There is also zero evidence it affects complications or transmissions, so it's farcical to tell someone they should vaccinate in order to protect someone else as far as influenza goes.

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  • Instead of using vaccinations of any type it would be far better for the human body to boost immunity with one or all of the following : Echinacea, Elderberry, Garlic, Colloidal Silver, Bee Propolis, Manuka Honey

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