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Public Health (09-01-2014)

Most EU countries are falling short of seasonal flu vaccination targets, reveals EC report

Published today, a progress report on the 2009 Council Recommendation on seasonal influenza vaccination reveals that of the 18 Member States who provided data on vaccination coverage for older age groups for the 2011-2012 flu season, only one – the Netherlands, has met the target of 75% coverage. The United Kingdom comes close, with 74% coverage, whereas the coverage reported by the remaining 16 countries ranges between 1.7% and 64.1%.

For the other priority groups identified in the Recommendation – people with chronic conditions and healthcare workers, data was scarce (reports from only five and six countries, respectively). This reinforces the perception that little or no progress is being made to improve vaccination coverage among the target population, despite almost all EU countries reporting to have national and/or regional policies on seasonal flu vaccination in place.

When it comes to barriers to vaccination for seasonal flu, over twenty countries filled in a questionnaire listing persistent problems such as:

  • 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 on the effectiveness of the influenza vaccine;
  • issues of cost, availability and convenience; and
  • misleading reports in the mainstream media.

The Council Recommendation encourages countries to foster education, training and information exchange on seasonal influenza and vaccination. For the past 24 months, a majority of countries reported implementing significant initiatives in this respect, with the aim of promoting appropriate attitudes and behaviours about vaccination among key populations.