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Seasonal Influenza Immunisation Programme

Volume 457: debated on Thursday 8 March 2007

On 22 November 2005, I announced in the House of Commons that a review of the arrangements currently in place for the seasonal influenza programme in England would be carried out. This review has now been completed and published today. A copy of the review has been placed in the Library.

The review details the current seasonal influenza vaccine supply system in England and provides a range of recommendations to strengthen the management of the programme. I welcome the report and commend the reviewers for such a thorough piece of work. The Department will be considering the detailed recommendations.

I would also like to provide details of this year’s seasonal influenza vaccination uptake. Despite reported delays to the distribution of influenza vaccine at the start of the programme, by the middle of December 14.6 million doses of vaccine had been distributed in the UK. This is about 900,000 doses more than in the previous year.

Final vaccine uptake data collected by the Health Protection Agency on behalf of the Department at the end of January 2007 show that vaccine uptake in those aged 65 and over was 74 per cent. comparable to the level of 75 per cent. achieved at the same time last year. This compares with the World Health Organisation target of 75 per cent. by 2010. Vaccine uptake in those under 65 in an at-risk group was 42 per cent. compared to 48 per cent. at the same time last year.

These levels of vaccination represent an excellent achievement by the general practitioners, nurses, health service providers and primary care organisations that deliver this service, especially when taking into consideration the fact that vaccine deliveries were delayed by several weeks.