A new nasal vaccine for two- and three-year-olds was introduced last winter. This is the first phase of a plan to vaccinate all children against flu to protect them and their families from the disease.
Around four in ten children in this target group were given the flu vaccine, according to a new report, which says uptake was reasonably good given that this was the first year that children were included in the programme. Officials say the result is something to build on this winter.
However, the report – which is based on figures compiled from GP practices across England – presents a mixed picture. A WHO target to vaccinate 75% of ‘at risk groups’, including older people, pregnant women and people with chronic illnesses, has not been met.
Almost three quarters of people aged 65 years (73.2%) received the vaccine but this falls to just half (52.3%) when we look at those in clinical at-risk groups aged under 65 years.
The statistics differ from one chronic illness to another with 70% of diabetes patients choosing to have the vaccine while uptake is around 50% for people with chronic heart and lung diseases.
Young people with chronic conditions were less likely to present for vaccination than older people with the same illnesses.
Another somewhat disappointing result was the number of pregnant women who were vaccinated last season. The WHO, doctors and midwives recommend flu vaccines during pregnancy, yet just four in ten pregnant women in England were vaccinated in the winter of 2013/2014.
On the one hand, pregnant women are understandably cautious about everything they do during pregnancy so some might argue that 40% is not so bad.
But on the other hand, women have multiple consultations with doctors, nurses and midwives through the course of their pregnancy. Everyone from international and local health experts to medical, nursing and midwifery training colleges advocates protecting unborn babies and their mothers from flu – yet less than half of all pregnant women in England are vaccinated.
Why do you think this is?
Is it that pregnant women are made aware that the flu vaccine is recommended for them but that they opt out?
Or are health professionals failing to encourage vaccine uptake among pregnant women?
Tell us what you think using the comment box below