Adult flu vaccination coverage

This indicator looks at flu vaccine uptake in England and in other OECD countries.

Indicator

Last updated: 31/03/2022

Effective clinical care
Primary and community care Public health International

Background

The seasonal influenza immunisation programme in England aims to protect those who are most at risk of serious illness or death following influenza infection. Here we look at England’s flu vaccine uptake for people aged 65 years and over, as well as how the UK compares internationally.

In the winter of 2020/21, during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, the flu vaccination programme was expanded to include adults aged 50 to 64 years old and household members of shielded patients. This came alongside research suggesting an increased risk of severe illness and death from co-infection with flu and Covid-19.


How has flu vaccine uptake in people aged 65 and over changed over time? 31/03/2022

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For most people, flu is an unpleasant illness, but it is not serious. However, certain people are more likely to develop serious complications of flu, such as bronchitis and pneumonia. Influenza immunisation has been recommended in the UK since the late 1960s, with the aim of protecting clinically at-risk groups who are at a higher risk of influenza-associated morbidity and mortality. In 2000, the policy was extended to include all people aged 65 years and over, and in 2010 pregnancy was added as a clinical risk category. In 2013 to 2014, the childhood programme was first implemented to target children from the ages of two to nine years. This was extended in 2018 to 2019 to all those aged 10 years old.

The ambition for flu vaccine coverage is to reach or exceed 75% uptake for people aged 65 years and over, as recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). In England, between 2004/05 and 2019/20, flu vaccine uptake fluctuated between 71% and 75%. In 2020/21, uptake in people aged 65 years and over reached 81%; this was the first time the WHO target had been met since the winter of 2005/06, when flu vaccine uptake reached 75%. In 2021/22, flu vaccine coverage for people aged 65 years and over increased to 82%, the second year in a row that the WHO target has been met. 


How does the UK's flu vaccination coverage compare internationally? 31/03/2022

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Between 2007 and 2020, England had some of the highest levels of flu vaccination coverage among those aged 65 and over compared to other OECD countries. In 2020, 81% of registered patients aged 65 and over were immunised. The United States and England have the highest levels of flu vaccine coverage, while Finland, Denmark and Germany have the lowest levels of coverage.

The increase in flu vaccination coverage among those aged 65 and over in England in 2020 also happened in other OECD countries. All countries that reported data for 2020 have had an increase in flu vaccination coverage, the largest increase is in Greece (59% in 2019 to 74% in 2020) and Ireland (59% in 2019 to 71% in 2020).


About this data

England time series: It is important to note that influenza vaccine uptake data is only a snapshot of the GP registered patients vaccinated at the time of data extraction. Data captured at the time of data extraction will exclude, for example, updates to patient records on vaccination status, newly registered patients or changes in clinical risk status. For example, patients who are vaccinated, but have not had their electronic patient record updated by the time of data extraction, will be included within the denominator, but will not be included in the count of the number vaccinated. For more information, please see the UK Health Security Agency’s Seasonal flu vaccine uptake in GP patients: monthly data, 2021 to 2022 report.

OECD data: Influenza vaccination rates refer to the number of people aged 65 and over who have received an annual influenza vaccination, divided by the total number of people over 65 years of age. In some countries, the data includes people over 60 years of age. The main limitation in terms of data comparability arises from the use of different data sources, whether survey or programme, which are susceptible to different types of errors and biases. For example, data from population surveys may reflect some variation due to recall errors and irregularity of administration. The definition and comparability information are taken directly from the OECD report Health at a Glance. Detailed information about the definitions, source and methods for each country can be downloaded here.

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