England's seasonal Flu programme 2007 - high uptake rate

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Flu Programme to Build on Successes Following Review

The seasonal flu campaign in England continues to achieve one of the highest uptakes rates in the 65 and over age group in Europe.

Figures from the flu vaccination programme 2006/07, showed seventy four per cent of those aged 65 and over received a flu jab by the end of January 2007, and 42 per cent of those under 65 in at risk groups were vaccinated.

In 2006/07, 6.2 million people in the 65 and over group were vaccinationed against flu. This figure is comparable to last year's campaign. (2005/06.)

The achievements of the flu campaign are all the more impressive considering that vaccine deliveries were delayed by several weeks due to manufacturing problems.

A new flu vaccination programme was announced in January for people who work in close contact with poultry; nearly all PCTs have plans to implement the programme, targeted for completion by March 31.

The Department of Health is also publishing today the review of the seasonal flu programme commissioned by the Health Secretary after the 2005/06 campaign. The review identifies a number of ways for the Department of Health and the NHS to build on the programme's successes. The main recommendations are:

  • Sustain progress achieved so far

  • Improve uptake among occupational health groups (health workers)

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  • Enhance the role of influenza co-ordinators and improve national, regional and local co-ordination and contingency planning

  • Explore the full range of delivery mechanisms available to the NHS through different contract types

  • Review future options for the purchase, supply and delivery of vaccine

Many recommendations have already been implemented, for example, improving communication with vaccine manufacturers and GPs.

Secretary of State Patricia Hewitt welcomed the report and commended the reviewers for such a thorough piece of work and said that the Department will be considering the detailed recommendations.

The review found greater public awareness of avian and pandemic flu in 2005 meant that some GP practices could not immediately meet public demand for flu vaccine and this may have led to reports of shortages.

Dr David Salisbury, Director of Immunisation at the Department of Health said;

"It is important to acknowledge the excellent achievement made by the GPs, nurses, health service providers and primary care organisations in delivering the seasonal flu programme in 2006/07. More than six million people aged 65 and over were immunised against flu, which can be a serious illness for older people.

"The seasonal flu review recognises that England runs an effective seasonal flu vaccination programme that achieves one of the highest uptakes in Europe. We accept in principle the recommendations to strengthen the programme, while recognising that some details may need to be considered more fully . We look forward to consulting widely about this."

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