Seasonal flu vaccination - a contested priority?

A European Commission progress report on the 2009 Council Recommendation on seasonal influenza vaccination shows that, during the 2011-12 flu season, only the Netherlands has met the target of 75% vaccination coverage for older age groups. Rates differed profoundly between the other Member States that provided data, the lowest being at only 1.7%. Meanwhile, data was incomplete for other priority groups such as health professionals and patients with chronic conditions.

Attitudinal and operational barriers

Although almost all EU countries surveyed have a national and/or regional policy on seasonal flu vaccination, the EC report reinforces the perception that little or even no progress is being made to improve vaccination coverage among the target population, A number of crucial barriers to seasonal flu vaccination have been identified by the reporting Member States:

- low perception of risk, including the risk of infecting others, particularly in healthcare settings;
- fear of possible and perceived side effects from vaccination, including getting the flu;
- scepticism about the effectiveness of the influenza vaccine;
- cost, availability and convenience of vaccination; and
- misleading media reports.

The Council Recommendation encourages countries to foster education, training and information exchange on seasonal influenza and vaccination, and progress is reported to have taken place in this regard.

EPHA will be working on developing a Briefing on vaccination in 2014 based on the inputs of its diverse membership.

For further information

- European Scientific Working Group on Influenza Press Statement, 21 October 2013 - Influenza vaccination of the elderly does make sense!

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Last modified on January 22 2014.