Last summer the United Kingdom set primary care physicians the ambitious target of vaccinating 75% of high-risk patients against influenza. The short notice and scale of the goal--which represents a 50% increase in one winter--caused consternation among physicians who said it would take a miracle to achieve. Now it appears no miracle occurred and the U.K. will miss its target.
In two of the high-risk groups targeted for vaccinations--the over 65s and pregnant women--uptake was actually lower as of January 19 than at the same point last year. No group has passed the 75% goal, with uptake among pregnant women failing to even hit 40%. Uptake among two and three-year-olds--who are excluded from the 75% target--is also languishing around 40%, despite AstraZeneca's ($AZN) nasal spray Fluenz being added to the childhood immunization plan.
Primary care physicians--known in the U.K. as general practitioners (GPs)--have defended their role in the failure. "GPs have done their very best to contact their patients, many practices opened on convenient times like weekends, but still we have not achieved good and desirable influenza immunization rates," Dr. George Kassianos, who leads the Royal College of General Practitioners' immunization group, told physician trade publication GP.
Kassianos called on the U.K. Department of Health to run a sustained media campaign to increase awareness of the flu vaccine and who it can help most. Efforts to increase uptake among frontline health workers have achieved some success, with 53% receiving the vaccine by the end of 2013. Last year only 44% of staff received the vaccine, OnMedica reports. Since starting the Flu Fighter campaign for the 2011/12 influenza season uptake among health workers has increased by more than 50%.