Adult flu vaccination coverage in England and internationally

Routine influenza vaccinations are a marker of the quality of primary care and have been recommended in the UK for selected population groups as they can help prevent serious complications and potentially also unnecessary deaths. Here we look at England's flu vaccination coverage for people over the age of 65 as well as how the UK compares to a selection of OECD countries.

How has immunisation coverage against seasonal flu in persons aged 65 changed over time?

For most people, flu is an unpleasant illness, but not serious. However, certain people are more likely to develop potentially serious complications of flu, such as bronchitis and pneumonia. The injected flu vaccine is therefore offered to people who are at risk in order to ensure they are protected against catching flu and developing serious complications. Influenza immunisation has been recommended in the UK since the late 1960s, with the aim of directly protecting those in clinical 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 or over. In 2010, pregnancy was added as a clinical risk category for routine influenza immunisation. In 2012, it was recommended that the programme should be extended to all children aged two to 16 years. The overall trend for the coverage of individuals aged over 65 receiving the influenza vaccination remains fairly static at between 71% and 75% over the time period recorded, with 72.7% between September 2014 and January 2015.

Last updated: October 2015.

How does UK's flu immunisation coverage compare internationally?

Between 2000 and 2013, the UK was the best performer after Australia, with flu vaccination rates in 2012 reaching 75.5 per cent, exceeding the WHO target of 75 per cent for the first time. Of all the OECD countries, in 2012 Korea had the best coverage (77.4 per cent), while in 2013 Chile had the best coverage (76.5 per cent).

Here we capture the average across the UK but within that there appear to be important country-level and even small-area variations – although comparisons between the countries of the UK need to be made with caution. As shown above, In England the cumulative take-up of influenza vaccinations between September 2014 and January 2015 among the population aged 65 years and older was 72.7 per cent, with only six out of 25 area teams reaching the 75 per cent target. Cumulative uptake in the population aged 65+ was 76.3% in Scotland, 68.1% in Wales and 73.4% in Northern Ireland.

The 2014/2015 annual surveillance report concluded that there were moderate levels of influenza activity in the community, with outbreaks in care homes resulting in more hospital admissions than seen in the previous years as well as excess mortality. The report suggests that there may have been a mismatch between the circulating viruses and the vaccine; however, the vaccination programme is continuously evaluated and high uptake should be encouraged.

Last updated: July 2015.

Source: 

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Health Data

About this data

For the schedule of vaccinations please see the NHS Choices website,

For all vaccinations some caution should be exercised when comparing coverage figures over time due to data quality issues reported by some data providers. Apparent trends could reflect changes in the quality of data reported as well as real changes in vaccination coverage. Please see individual data collections for any additional information associated with this data.

International comparisons:

Definitions and comparability for all the indicators discussed above are taken directly from the OECD report Health at a Glance 2013: OECD indicators. Detailed information about the definitions and the source and methods for each country can be found on the OECD website.

'Influenza vaccination rate' refers 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. 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. A number of countries changed the way in which influenza vaccination rates were calculated between 2005 and 2011. These countries are: Chile, Denmark, Germany, Israel, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Slovenia, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

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