Low flu jab uptake prompts call to widen programme

The UK flu vaccination programme should be extended to people aged 50-65 and children aged six months to three years, the RCGP has suggested.

Influenza vaccination is now recommended for all everyone aged 65 and over, as well as individuals in at-risk groups, such as those suffering from respiratory problems.

Research has revealed that influenza vaccination uptake levels for Great Britain are lagging below the European average.

The WHO has emphasised the importance of influenza vaccination, stating that 'the risk of a new flu pandemic is at its highest level since the last pandemic in 1968'.

This latest study assessed the levels of influenza vaccination coverage in England, Scotland and Wales for consecutive flu seasons from 2001 to 2006.

Vaccination coverage for Great Britain increased by over 3 per cent during the study period to reach 25.9 per cent, however this was short of the European average, 26.5 per cent.

Dr George Kassianos, RCGP immunisation spokesman and Berkshire GP, believed that there were still many who required a flu jab who failed to be immunised.

'One way to increase the coverage among the general population but also to prevent influenza in the vulnerable, is to extend flu vaccination to the over-50s, to allow better coverage of those with chronic disease, and children aged six months to three years,' he said.

The study found that 40 per cent of respondents said that they intended to be vaccinated but only 25.9 per cent were.

Lead researcher Dr Thomas Szucs, from the University of Zurich, said: 'GPs have to be aware of their active role and responsibility to identify the at-risk population, recommend the vaccination and make access to the vaccine simple.'

sanjay.tanday@haymarket.com

Vaccine Online 2007

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