The number of frontline healthcare workers in England who took up the offer of an NHS influenza vaccination fell for the first time in six years in 2021/2022, government figures show.
A report from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), published on 30 June 2022, showed that the vaccination rate among healthcare workers fell to 61.4% in 2021/2022 from 76.8% in the 2020/2021 season.
“This represents the first drop in vaccination of frontline health care workers since the 2015 to 2016 season,” the report says, adding that vaccination rates were higher in GP practices at 74.1% than in acute trusts, where 61.1% of staff were vaccinated.
The vaccination rates among frontline healthcare workers missed targets set by the government in July 2021 to have 85% take up the offer in 2021/2022.
The 2021/2022 flu season saw community pharmacists deliver the highest ever number of flu vaccinations at 4.8 million, in the second year of expanded eligibility to include those aged 50–64 years and not considered clinically at-risk.
Other figures, published by UKHSA on 30 June 2022, on patient uptake of NHS flu vaccines during the 2021/2022 campaign show a mixed picture, with the highest-ever rate of uptake among patients aged over 65 years at 82.3%, but a drop in rates among younger age groups.
Uptake in clinically at-risk patients between the ages of 6 months and 65 years decreased slightly to 52.9%, while vaccination rates in pregnant women fell from 43.6% in 2020/2021 to 37.9% in 2021/2022, the figures showed.
In patients aged 50–64 years and not in a clinically at-risk group, uptake was 45.7% in 2021/2022 compared to 35.2% in 2020/2021, but this group had been eligible from September 2021 in the most recent flu season, compared with from December 2020 in the previous flu season.
The government report confirmed that “no target group achieved the national vaccine uptake ambitions”, which had been set at 85% for patients over the age of 65 years, and 75% for those aged 50–64 years and those in the younger clinically at-risk groups.
Thorrun Govind, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s English Pharmacy Board, said: “It’s concerning that there’s been a drop in healthcare professionals being vaccinated against flu in England.
“We actively and strongly encourage all pharmacists and teams to get vaccinated unless there is a medical reason why they cannot.
“The NHS provides access to free flu jabs to pharmacy teams across primary care. We look forward to pharmacists and their teams being recognised again this year and protection provided for themselves and the public as an essential part of infection control and disease prevention.”