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GPs told to aim for 75% flu vaccine coverage in at-risk clinical groups

By Lilian Anekwe

The Department of Health has announced strict new targets for flu vaccination uptake for GPs, but has backed away from removing the responsibility for ordering flu vaccines from practices.

A Department of Health letter to PCT and SHA flu immunisation co-ordinators sets GPs new targets for vaccination uptake, including a 75% uptake of the vaccine for people aged 65 or over, and the same target in those under 65 with clinical conditions and pregnant women by 2013/14.

The letter also says there should be a ‘reasonable trajectory' for increases in uptake in clinical risk groups and pregnant women before then, with suggested targets of 60% in 2011/12, 70% in 2012/13 and 75% reached or exceeded in 2013/14.

Data on current vaccination uptake rates show the new targets will be a challenge for GP practices. Estimated uptake in those aged 65 years and over was 72.4% in 2009/10, 50.3% in the clinical risk groups under 65 years of age in 2009/10 and only 37.7% in pregnant women at the end of last month.

The letter also announced the responsibility for ordering flu vaccines would remain in general practice ‘as in previous years', despite calls during the peak of last winter's flu season for the DH to strip GPs of the role in favour of central vaccine procurement.

The Department of Health, on the advice of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, also ruled out any changes to eligible patients for seasonal flu jabs in the winter 2011/12 vaccination campaign, despite coming under pressure to add children under five to the list of eligible groups.

The most recent HPA surveillance data, suggests that the circulation of influenza in the community has now fallen to low levels below the level at which NICE guidelines on the use of antiviral medicines is triggered.

'The use of antiviral medicines for the prevention or treatment of influenza is therefore no longer indicated', the DH said.

GPs told to aim for 75% flu vaccine coverage in at-risk clinical groups