Record numbers of people aged 65 and over have taken up the offer of a flu vaccine in England, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has announced.

The latest data from UKHSA, published last week, shows that 81.4% of over-65s have come forward for their flu jab this winter.

UKHSA said this is the ‘highest uptake in this age group on record’, up from last year’s end-of-season uptake of 80.9%.

This means that England has now already exceeded the World Health Organisation (WHO) target of 75% in over-65s for the season, it added.

NHS England primary care medical director Dr Nikki Kanani said: ‘With more people than ever eligible for a free flu vaccine, it is fantastic to see such strong uptake of the flu vaccine so far, with millions of people having already received their dose of protection.

‘This is testament to the hard work of health professionals across the country in rolling out the biggest free flu drive in healthcare history, in addition to delivering an incredible coronavirus vaccination programme.’

The record comes at the same time as over-three quarters of eligible adults received their Covid booster in England by New Year’s Eve.

However, uptake of the flu vaccine in pregnant women and those with underlying health conditions is low in comparison to older adults – at 37.1% and 49.2% respectively – according to the data.

And preschool vaccination rates are less than last year’s uptake during the same period, with 49% of three-year-olds and 47% of two-year-olds receiving a flu jab so far, UKHSA said.

Vaccination uptake in healthcare workers is also ‘lower than at this point in previous years’, it added.

Flu vaccination could be made mandatory for healthcare staff from next year, after Covid vaccination becomes a ‘condition of deployment’ for all public-facing staff in England’s health services from April this year.

It comes as the chief scientific officer last week suggested that the long-term Covid vaccination strategy could be an annual jab similar to the flu programme.

This year’s record-sized flu vaccination programme is due to target 35 million people across the UK.

A version of this story first appeared on our sister website, Pulse.