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Flu vaccine uptake drops after two bumper years

by Emma Wilkinson
12 June 2023

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The number of people getting the flu vaccine has declined slightly after two bumper years of uptake, the latest figures show.

Provisional GP data for the 2022/23 flu season show vaccine uptake of 79.9% in those aged 65 and over compared with 82.3% last year and 80.9% in 2020/21.

There is a similar pattern in clinical risk groups where uptake was 49.1% over winter compared with 52.9% the previous year and pregnant women with uptake of 35% compared with 37.9% in 2021/22, the figures show.

Uptake amongst two-and-three-year-olds was also more than 6 percentage points down on last year, NHS England has reported.

Figures published earlier this year showed that almost two-thirds of frontline health workers in GP practices have had a flu and Covid booster vaccine this winter, with 64.1% of patient-facing GP staff having had a seasonal flu jab.

Health officials had urged people to take up the offer of flu vaccinations amidst worries of a ‘twindemic’ with influenza and Covid circulating at the same time.

The UK Health Security Agency had also warned of an early and severe flu season with surveillance data showing a peak around Christmas.

Research from the Institute for Public Policy Research showed almost a quarter of UK adults would be unlikely to get the winter flu vaccine if they were invited, driven by vaccine inequality.

The think tank found that those in lower-income occupations who are more likely to come into extensive contact with other people are less likely to take up the offer of vaccination.

Next winter’s flu vaccination campaign was announced by NHS England in May with low-risk 50-64 year olds no longer eligible.

Providers are expected to deliver 100% offer to eligible groups and should aim to ‘equal or exceed’ last season’s uptake, especially in clinical risk groups, young children and pregnant women, a letter said from NHS England said.

The enhanced specifications in the GP contract for delivering the vaccination campaign will be updated shortly, the letter said.

A version of this story first appeared on our sister publication Pulse.