Health ministers across Europe want to see at least 75% of older people and those with chronic disease vaccinated against flu. Their goal is to reduce complications and hospitalisations associated with influenza viruses.
However, only the Netherlands and the United Kingdom has reached the target. Now a group of researchers and health professionals has compiled best practice guidelines for GPs to help them improve flu vaccine uptake.
Drawing on official guidance from the Netherlands, the UK and the World Health Organisation, the paper provides a review of flu vaccines’ safety and effectiveness and provides practical tips on communicating with patients.
“Currently there is no influenza vaccination guidance for European general practitioners,” the authors write.
Lead author Dr George Kassianos, Royal College of General Practitioners UK Immunisation Lead, says health professionals play a key role in improving immunisation rates. One of the best things they can do to encourage vaccination is to ensure patients know that their doctors and nurses are vaccinated.
The paper looks at various risk groups and provides evidence-based advice for GPs. Pregnant women, children and people with allergies.
The authors note that pregnant women are a high priority and the benefits of vaccination during pregnancy have been highlighted by the WHO.
“Seasonal inactivated influenza vaccine is recommended for pregnant women (regardless of the stage of pregnancy) by WHO, and this group represents the first targeted group for influenza vaccination after the WHO priorities are fulfilled,” the paper says.
“Specific risks to the baby include prematurity and low birth weight both of which may be reduced by influenza vaccination during pregnancy.”