Latest official figures suggest this year’s flu campaign in England has achieved markedly lower vaccine uptake across all cohorts of patients than last season.
According to the figures to the end of January, uptake is down among elderly people as well as under-65s in at-risk groups, pregnant women and all the target age groups in children,
The drop appeared to be most marked among under-65s in clinical risk groups, where coverage fell five percentage points from 50% last season to 45% this year.
Coverage also fell for:
- Elderly people 65+ years – to 71%, compared with 73% last year
- Pregnant women – to 42%, down from 44%
- All two-year olds – to 35%, down from 39%
- All three-year-olds – to 38%, down from 41%
- All four-year-olds – to 30%, from 33%
Last year’s figures to the end of January marked the final data collection for the season, and public health chiefs told Pulse the latest data were unlikely to change much further.
However, Public Health England (PHE) recently warned GPs to retain vaccine stocks ‘due to the recent arrival of cold weather’ which they say could mean a ‘late surge in demand for flu vaccinations’.
Either way, the figures suggest the current approach is falling a long way short of PHE’s stated aim of achieving 75% uptake in all target cohorts.
They also cast further doubt on NHS England’s last-minute decision to launch a national pharmacy flu vaccination scheme, which GP leaders have warned is simply ‘poaching’ patients from practices, destabilising their finances and throwing the campaign into chaos.