Poor flu jab uptake forces U-turn over campaign

Low flu vaccination rates among vulnerable patients this winter have forced ministers to relaunch a national awareness campaign despite ruling this out earlier in the year.

Flu jab: slump in uptake prompts DH campaign rethink
Flu jab: slump in uptake prompts DH campaign rethink

Around 11% fewer at-risk and elderly patients have been vaccinated this winter and ministers admitted people may be complacent following last year's mild winter.

This has forced officials into relaunching the national advertising campaign from Monday for the first time since 2009/10. It will call on at-risk people to protect themselves against flu, through radio, website and print advertisements costing £590,000. In addition, a £20m fund will be allocated to councils to help protect vulnerable people from cold weather.

In September, deputy NHS chief executive David Flory ruled out a national flu campaign, saying local areas needed to ensure people turned up for their vaccination.

But at that time, RCGP health protection lead Dr Maureen Baker warned of possible complacency among the public following low flu activity last winter. The college's immunisation lead Dr George Kassianos criticised the lack of an early campaign.

Public health minister Anna Soubry has now said people may have been 'lulled into a false sense of security' following the mild winter in 2011/12. She said: 'We have taken the decision this year to run a flu campaign because too many people in at risk groups have not come forward for the jab yet, although local campaigns have been running for the past month.'

She added: 'If you are in a risk group, don’t miss the chance to be vaccinated. Contact your GP surgery and make an appointment.'

Uptake low

Just 48.9% of patients over 65 have had their jab so far this winter, compared with 54.8% at this time in 2011/12.

Similarly, just 28.7% of at-risk patients aged under 65 have been protected, down from 32.2% by November 2011. Uptake among pregnant women is up, at 23.1% compared with 13.6% in 2011/12.

RCGP health protection lead Dr Maureen Baker welcomed the campaign and said the public's complacency around vaccination was 'understandable but concerning'. 'Fortunately, we are not yet seeing high levels of circulating flu, so we are in a good position to make up ground in terms of providing vaccine to at-risk groups.'

She added: 'In terms of future winters, we will want to observe whether this campaign has the desired effect. I expect we will also need to have some discussion regarding timings of campaigns, should we want to run these again in future years.'

There has been no national flu awareness campaign for the past two winters. The DH's seasonal flu plan for last winter said that 'while a national campaign might play a role in increasing early uptake of the vaccine, research suggests that it cannot replace proactive and personalised invitations from GPs to patients'.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register

Already registered?

Sign in

Follow Us:

Just published

£20 notes spread out

VAT trap for PCNs could strip millions of pounds from general practice

Tens of millions of pounds could be stripped from general practice because work carried...

Talking General Practice logo

Podcast: Is the BMA representing GPs effectively, why GPs face a pension tax hit, and views on the workload crisis

In our regular news review the team discusses representation of GPs, a new survey...

Man sleeping

NICE guidance on insomnia backs app to replace sleeping pills

Hundreds of thousands of people with insomnia could be offered treatment via a mobile...

Health worker prepares a dose of COVID-19 vaccine

JCVI backs autumn COVID-19 booster campaign for high-risk adults and NHS staff

Frontline health and social care staff and adults at increased risk of severe illness...

GP consultation

Government accused of 'misleading' claims on general practice workforce

GP leaders have accused the government of making misleading claims about the general...

Consulting room door

LMC calls for enhanced access to be scrapped after abuse forces practice to close reception

A Midlands LMC has backed a practice forced to close its reception desk after abuse...