A record 80% of all those aged 65 years and older in England have been vaccinated against the flu this winter, Public Health England (PHE) has announced.
This is the highest uptake achieved in this cohort on record – with almost 10% more people vaccinated than this time last year – with three months to go until the programme is officially due to end.
Flu vaccine uptake rates across other eligible groups are also higher than last year, with over half (51%) of all people under 65 in clinical at-risk groups already vaccinated, PHE said.
According to PSNC’s latest figures, community pharmacies in England have administered 2.3 million vaccines to eligible groups – over a million more than the sector achieved during the same time period last year.
The data shows 58% of the vaccines administered in community pharmacy so far were to the over 65s.
Community pharmacies exceeded the 2019 flu vaccine record in just two months of the 2020 service starting, vaccinating more than 1.7 million patients by November.
In October 2020, NHS England said pharmacists and GPs should be prepared to deliver flu jabs up until February this year, as a ‘longer-than-usual timescale’ was needed to ensure all cohorts are covered.
The 2020/21 expanded flu programme is targeting 30 million people, with new cohorts made eligible for a free jab.
From 1 December community pharmacists and GPs have also delivered flu vaccines to patients aged 50-64.
Pharmacists have, however, reported that in recent weeks demand for the vaccine has declined, PSNC said.
In response, NHSE&I will be writing to the 50-64-year-olds who have not yet received a vaccination to ask them to arrange an appointment, the negotiator added.
Commenting on the new figures, Jo Churchill, Public Health Minister said: ‘It is fantastic to see that despite the unique challenges of this winter, more over 65s than ever before have had their flu vaccination and that there is such high uptake across the eligible groups.
‘Every year health and care staff do an incredible job rolling out the flu vaccine, and this year the Covid-19 vaccine too, to protect us all.’
Commenting on community pharmacies involvement in the programme, Alastair Buxton, director of NHS services at PSNC added: ‘Community pharmacy teams have made fantastic efforts to vaccinate more people than ever before against the flu. The sector surpassed its previous total before the end of October.
‘What makes this even more remarkable is that it was achieved in the middle of a pandemic when staff were already stretched.’