In figures: the biggest flu vaccination campaign in history

While all the attention has been on the COVID-19 vaccination programme, community pharmacy has quietly stepped up to the challenge of helping deliver the largest influenza vaccination campaign in UK history.

In 2020, ministers across the UK tasked the health service with administering the flu vaccine “to more people than ever before” in order to head off a winter crisis and keep the most vulnerable people out of hospital. Younger age groups and household members of shielded patients were eligible for the first time, bringing the total targeted by the campaign in England to around 30 million people — double the number who received a flu vaccination the previous season.

PJ analysis of Public Health England data, which are provisional and may include duplicates

Despite having to deliver the programme during a pandemic, and while another (even larger) national vaccination drive was happening for COVID-19, there has been a jump in uptake rates, with just over 80% of people aged over 65 years in England taking up the flu vaccine in 2020–2021, the highest proportion yet. Uptake rates for people aged over 65 years were also high in Wales and Scotland, at 77% and 80%, respectively.

Public Health England. Data are provisional

Community pharmacies have been an important part of the the national effort, delivering record numbers of NHS vaccinations. In England, pharmacies administered 60% more flu vaccinations this season compared with last season, and this is despite doubts at the start about whether enough vaccines would become available. In Wales, pharmacies delivered an additional 25,000 vaccinations, an increase of 40% on the previous year.

In Scotland, it was the first season in which community pharmacies had been able to offer NHS flu vaccinations to the general public, and only a handful of NHS boards commissioned the service.

PJ analysis of NHS BUSINESS SERVICES AUTHORITY, ADVANCED SERVICE FLU REPORT. Data are provisional

There was a huge surge in demand at the start of the season, with the number of vaccinations administered from community pharmacies in England surpassing the previous season’s total by the end of October 2020.    

PHARMACEUTICAL SERVICES NEGOTIATING COMMITTEE. DATA ARE FROM FLU VACCINATIONS ADMINISTERED THAT HAVE BEEN ENTERED ONTO SONAR AND PHARMOUTCOMES SYSTEMS, SO DO NOT REPRESENT ALL PROVIDERS SINCE SOME DO NOT USE THESE PLATFORMS

This demand continued as the programme opened to people aged 50–64 years for the first time from 1 December 2020 (60–64 years in Scotland); almost half a million people in this category received their vaccine in a community pharmacy in England, accounting for 17% of all vaccinations administered in English pharmacies.   

PHARMACEUTICAL SERVICES NEGOTIATING COMMITTEE. DATA ARE FROM FLU VACCINATIONS ADMINISTERED THAT HAVE BEEN ENTERED ONTO SONAR AND PHARMOUTCOMES SYSTEMS, SO DO NOT REPRESENT ALL PROVIDERS SINCE SOME DO NOT USE THESE PLATFORMS

Pharmacy teams in every part of the country have contributed to the success of the campaign, although those in the north of England have done particularly well.

PJ analysis of NHS BUSINESS SERVICES AUTHORITY, ADVANCED SERVICE FLU REPORT (data are provisional)/Community Pharmacy Wales (data as of 22 February 2021)/Scottish NHS Boards

Local independent pharmacies were the most prolific individual vaccinators in England…

PJ analysis of NHS Business Services Authority, Advanced Service Flu report. Data are provisional

… but multiples also played their part, delivering the lion’s share of vaccinations.

PJ analysis of NHS Business Services Authority, Advanced Service Flu report. Data are provisional

Last updated
Citation
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, May 2021, Vol 306, No 7949;306(7949)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2021.1.86024