A new European Commisssion report published in January 2014 uncovers that most EU countries are falling short of flu vaccination targets. Of 18 Member States that provided data on seasonal influenza vaccination, only one managed to reach the target for the older age priority group; moreover, data was scarce for other priority groups. A number of barriers identified in the report indicate the need for further reflection and discussion of seasonal flu vaccination involving all stakeholders given the vast differences in national approaches and attitudes.
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.
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