Flu vaccination programme did not protect over-65s last year

PHE insisted that the vaccine was the best protection we had against the flu, but other interventions such as antiviral therapies and prophylaxis were important for tackling spread in the wider community.


Public Health England (PHE) says it has no plans to revise the 2017–2018 winter flu vaccination campaign in spite of figures revealing that last year’s campaign was not effective among its principle targets, the over-65s.

Community pharmacists administered more than 950,000 of the 10 million flu vaccinations given to patients in England last winter, but provisional estimates by PHE show that for all age groups combined, the vaccine effectiveness against influenza A and B was 39.8% (85% confidence interval [CI]: 23.1 to 52.8). But for the over-65s, the principal target of the campaign, effectiveness was −6.3% (CI: −95.5 to 42.0).

 “We did not find that the vaccine was significantly effective in protecting against influenza in primary care for the over-65 population last season,” PHE said in a statement.

It insisted that vaccination was still the “best protection” we had against the flu virus, but said: “This means that other interventions, such as the use of antiviral therapies and prophylaxis, and tackling spread in the wider community, are important.”

PHE’s deputy medical director, Jenny Harries, was keen to stress the positive news about the campaign.

“It is good news that last winter, children were particularly well protected against flu with the vaccine nasal spray,” she said.

“We know children can spread flu more than others, and if we can keep them well it means that the infection is less likely to pass to those who are at high risk.

“Vaccines are the best defence we have against flu and not only protect people who have received the vaccine but also those around them. Achieving high coverage in children with a vaccine which has been shown to work well will offer those over 65 protection from flu, even though we did not find that the vaccine offered significant protection in this age group.”

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, Flu vaccination programme did not protect over-65s last year;Online:DOI:10.1211/PJ.2017.20203539

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