Flu vaccine uptake 'highest on record' as GPs jab 81% of over-65s

GP practices in England delivered flu vaccinations to a record 81.4% of patients aged over 65 by the end of 2021, official data show.

Vaccine being injected into arm
Flu jab uptake record in over-65s (Photo: Peter Cade/Getty Images)

NHS officials hailed the milestone as 'testament to the hard work of GPs', with record flu jab uptake in over-65s coming alongside an unprecedented COVID-19 vaccination drive that saw more than 1m doses administered per day towards the end of December.

A total of 81.4% of all over-65s have received a dose of flu vaccine - up from 80.9% at the same stage last year and the highest level in this age group on record, according to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).

Among over-65s in at-risk groups, vaccine coverage rises to 84.2% - although in pregnant women and people with long-term conditions uptake remains lower than expected, while in healthcare staff uptake is below the level seen in previous years.

In people aged under 65 and in a clinical risk group, flu jab uptake is 49.2%, falling to 37.1% in pregnant women. A total of 44.1% of those aged 50-64 who are not in a clinical at-risk group have also been vaccinated, under the expanded flu campaign operating for the past two seasons.

Flu vaccination

NHS England primary care medical director Dr Nikki Kanani said: 'This is testament to the hard work of health professionals across the country in rolling out the biggest free flu drive in healthcare history, in addition to delivering an incredible COVID-19 vaccination programme.

'With more people than ever eligible for a free flu vaccine, it is fantastic to see such strong uptake of the flu vaccine so far, with millions of people having already received their dose of protection and I urge anyone who is eligible - including pregnant women, those with underlying health conditions, everyone aged 50 and above and frontline health and care workers - to come forward and book their vaccine as soon as possible.'

Health and social care secretary Sajid Javid said: 'It is incredible that more people aged 65 and over have received their flu vaccine this year than ever before. Getting your winter vaccines – whether that is your flu jab if eligible or your booster jab - is one of the most important things people can do this winter.'

Flu activity remains low, according to the UKHSA - but GPs have pushed hard to deliver a high rate of vaccination to reduce the risk of a significant flu outbreak alongside winter pressure exacerbated by COVID-19.

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