The percentage of patients vaccinated against the flu in GP surgeries has fallen behind schedule when compared with the rate of flu vaccine uptake in 2017, Public Health England (PHE) has said.
According to figures from PHE published on 6 December 2018, 65% of people aged over 65 years have been vaccinated, whereas by this time in 2017, 69% of patients aged over 65 years had been vaccinated. A total of 41% of pregnant women have received a flu vaccine in 2018, compared with 43% by the same time in 2017.
Paul Cosford, medical director of PHE, said: “Early indications suggest that the flu vaccines are well matched to the strains of flu likely to circulate this year. However, uptake of the vaccine is slightly down on this time last year, especially among pregnant women and those aged 65 [years] and over who are at increased risk from the complications of flu.
“It is even more important than ever that all those eligible take up the offer of the flu vaccine, especially before Christmas when many people will be gathering together with the added risk of spreading infection that this brings.”
However, figures from the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) reveal that pharmacists have seen their vaccination rates surge.
As of 10 December 2018, pharmacists had vaccinated just over 1.2 million people, compared with 950,000 on the same date in 2017. The figures are not broken down into separate categories.
Nat Mitchell, pharmacist and director of JWW Allison and Sons in Cockermouth, Cumbria, told The Pharmaceutical Journal that his pharmacy has administered “more [flu jabs] than ever”.
But he said: “One of our biggest reasons why we’ve done more is because our local surgery had problems.
“We’ve had a lot of people we wouldn’t have previously had because the surgery didn’t get any in until late October.”
Pharmacists have previously said they were forced to turn patients away after running out of the new enhanced adjuvanted trivalent flu vaccine for people aged over 65 years. Deliveries were staggered between September, October and November 2018.
Mitchell said that since the final delivery of flu vaccines in November 2018, he expects his stock to last to the end of the flu season.
He said: “We’ve got plenty left now … I can’t see demand spiking again, unless we have a flu scare. You never really know but we have got a few hundred left so I wouldn’t imagine that we’d use all those up now.”
The PSNC asked all pharmacies to provide them with their stock levels of flu vaccines at close of business on 12 December 2018.
According to a statement on its website, the PSNC said the data would be used to “help NHS England and local partners to ensure that as many vaccines as possible get administered to eligible patients”.
The statement added that the data would be shared “with NHS England and Public Health England to inform clinical commissioning groups, the public, other community pharmacies and GP practices about the availability of flu vaccines”.