Exclusive - 25% of GPs say flu jabs are pointless

A quarter of GPs believe that flu jabs are unnecessary, according to a GP survey.

Of the 310 GPs questioned, 25.3 per cent said that influenza immunisation was not needed.

Seventy-two per cent were against the RCGP's proposal for the flu programme to be extended to include adults aged 50-65 and children under the age of two.

At present, all over-65s, those in nursing homes, patients with chronic respiratory disease, CHD, chronic renal disease and the immunocompromised are targeted.

The survey also showed that 77 per cent of GPs had seen no increase in the number of patients coming forward for a flu jab this flu season compared with 2006/7.

The DoH put £115 million into this year's flu immunisation campaign. But it also wants to drop points for vaccinating patients with CHD, diabetes, COPD or a history of stroke from the GMS quality framework.

GPs fear that if these quality points are axed, uptake of the vaccine among vulnerable patients will fall (GPs oppose the cut in flu points, GP, 11 January).

Dr George Kassianos, RCGP immunisation spokesman and Berkshire GP, said: 'Evidence shows that the flu jab is beneficial but we do not give it to enough people. If you do not vaccinate enough people then it is not as effective.

'By extending the programme to include people aged 50-65 and children we can reduce the chances of the virus circulating in the community.'

Dr Kassianos blamed the GP backlash against the flu vaccine on findings from a Health Protection Agency (HPA) study in November that suggested that flu jabs did not reduce deaths from acute respiratory illness in elderly patients.

Dr Nigel Higson, a Brighton GP and virologist, said the survey findings were 'depressing'.

'The results show that GPs have become complacent when it comes to flu jabs,' he said.

'A lot of younger GPs have never experienced a serious flu epidemic, so they tend not to push flu jabs as much as they should.'

But Somerset GP Dr Richard Lawson, who has an interest in flu, said: 'There is doubt over the effectiveness of the jab in people over 75 years, as their immune system is so experienced they are probably competent to deal with any flu virus.'

'This year I have noticed that side-effects of the jab in the older age group, mainly flu-like illness that can be quite persistent, are higher than usual. Therefore, I am leaning towards not actively encouraging elderly patients to have the flu vaccine.'

sanjay.tanday@haymarket.com

Flu survey

  • 25.3% of GPs believe that flu jabs are unnecessary
  • 72% of GPs oppose RCGP proposals to widen flu campaign

Source: GP survey

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