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GP practices maintained record level of flu vaccine uptake in over-65s

by Jess Hacker
7 January 2022

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Practices maintained a record level of flu uptake among over-65s this year, despite low uptake among pregnant women, according to data gathered from general practices in England.

As of the final week of 2021, more than four-in-five (81%) of all people aged 65 and over came forward for their influenza vaccine, rising to 84% for those over 65 in a clinical risk group.

It means that England has exceeded the 75% coverage target for this age group for the winter season.

The level of uptake among over-65s at the end of the previous season was 80.9%.

Published by the UK Health Security Agency (6 January), the findings are based on data gathered from 95.8% of GP practices reporting weekly to ImmForm, a data collection service.

However, uptake among pregnant women remains comparatively low, at 37%.

In the September 2020 to February 2021 season, 43.6% of pregnant women had received their flu vaccine.

Uptake was similarly low for all people under 65, including those in a clinical risk group (49%) and those not (44%).

By comparison, only one-in-five under-65s not at risk had come forward at the start of November, with only 30% of those at risk had been vaccinated.

Commenting on the data, Dr Nikki Kanani, GP and medical director of primary care for NHS England, said it was ‘testament to the hard work of health professionals across the country’.

Meanwhile, Dr Conall Watson, consultant epidemiologist at UKHSA, noted the record level of uptake, but warned ‘there are still many people in younger eligible groups – pregnant women and people with underlying medical conditions – who have not yet been vaccinated against flu this winter and are at risk of serious complications from flu infection’.

This comes as practices power through the Covid vaccine booster campaign, which has now seen more than 34.8 million doses administered.

Practices were recently urged to ‘make every contact count’ with pregnant people, as part of central efforts to encourage and improve uptake.

In October, Management in Practice reported that almost 20% of the most critically ill Covid patients in England between July and October were pregnant women who had not been vaccinated.

The Government recently announced it would provide £22.5m funding to support the areas with the lowest Covid vaccine uptake.