Influenza vaccination coverage rates insufficient across EU Member States

news story

None of the European Union (EU) Member States could demonstrate that they reach the EU target of 75% influenza vaccination coverage for vulnerable groups, according to a new report from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). Influenza vaccination coverage remains low in many countries, and leads to severe disease, hospitalisations and premature deaths. If no improvements in the vaccine uptake will be seen, significant burden on the healthcare systems can be expected also during this upcoming winter season.

Influenza vaccination coverage rates for the 2015–16, 2016–17 and 2017-18 seasons were provided by 19 Member States. Detailed information was provided for specific risk groups such as the elderly, individuals with chronic medical conditions, pregnant women, healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities. These groups are the most likely to suffer serious complications, which is why most countries prioritize them for vaccination.

Only a few of the EU Member States that participated in the survey come close to achieving the 75% vaccination coverage target, which has been set by the EU to protect tens of thousands of persons at risk of death and serious illness.

“The results of this survey have shown that achieving high vaccination coverage rates for those particularly at risk of developing severe complications remains a serious public health challenge” says Pasi Penttinen, ECDC Head of Influenza Disease Programme. “The best way to prevent or minimize severe disease from influenza among vulnerable groups is timely vaccination, even though the effectiveness of the vaccine varies depending on the virus in circulation. Sufficient vaccination coverage also saves healthcare systems money in decreased consultation rates and hospitalisations.”

More encouragingly, approximately half of the EU Member States reported increased use of newer influenza vaccines that provide broader protection during the 2017/18 season. These new vaccines contain four influenza strains or an adjuvant. Also, six Member States reported using newer immunisation strategies which target additional age groups such as children. Whether the newer vaccines and vaccination strategies will provide better overall protection will be studied by ECDC in the coming winter seasons.

For patients with severe influenza, or those unable to respond to vaccination due to disease or treatment affecting the immune system, the use of influenza antivirals may be life-saving. Most EU Member States have issued recommendations for the use of influenza antivirals.

The ECDC report recommends improving vaccination coverage rates through targeted communication campaigns towards vulnerable groups, as well as ensuring adequate and sustainable funding of national vaccination programmes. Countries that do not yet have a seasonal influenza vaccination action plan to achieve higher seasonal influenza vaccination coverage rates are encouraged to develop and adopt such a plan, document or policy.

 

Notes to editor

The ECDC report Seasonal influenza vaccination and antiviral use in EU/EEA Member States - Overview of vaccine recommendations for 2017-18 and vaccination coverage rates for the 2015–16 and 2016–17 influenza seasons is available at : https://ecdc.europa.eu/en/publications-data/seasonal-influenza-vaccination-antiviral-use-eu-eea-member-states

The 2009 EU Council Recommendation on seasonal influenza encourages EU/EEA Member States “to adopt and implement national, regional or local action plans or policies, as appropriate, aimed at improving seasonal influenza vaccination coverage, with the aim of reaching, as early as possible and preferably by the 2014-2015 winter season, a vaccination coverage rate of 75 % for ‘older age groups’ and, if possible, for other risk groups, if not already reached. Member States are also encouraged to improve vaccination coverage among healthcare workers.”

Read the report

Read more on this site

Seasonal influenza vaccination and antiviral use in EU/EEA Member States

Overview of vaccine recommendations for 2017–2018 and vaccination coverage rates for 2015–2016 and 2016–2017 influenza seasons.

Factsheet about seasonal influenza

Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The best way to prevent flu is by getting a flu vaccine each year.

Seasonal influenza vaccines

Seasonal influenza is a vaccine-preventable disease and annual influenza vaccination is the most effective way to prevent influenza. ECDC continues to emphasise that all Europeans who are recommended to have the influenza vaccine should get vaccinated.  Vaccination is especially important for people at higher risk of serious influenza complications: Individuals with specific chronic medical conditions, pregnant women, and children aged 6-59 months, the elderly and healthcare workers.

All updates on seasonal influenza

Data

Weekly influenza update, week 15, April 2019

infographic -

Data

Weekly influenza update, week 14, April 2019

infographic -

Data

Weekly influenza update, week 13, March 2019

infographic -

Data

Weekly influenza update, week 12, March 2019

infographic -

Data

Weekly influenza update, week 11, March 2019

infographic -

More about this topic

Flu News Europe

Flu News Europe is a joint ECDC–WHO Europe weekly influenza update. It reports on influenza activity in Europe throughout the flu season.

Infographic: Why do I need a flu vaccine every year?

Every year flu is different, so every year you need an updated vaccine. Usually, a flu vaccination reduces the risk by 60%. In a bad year, the seasonal flu vaccine reduces the risk of flu illness by only 20% to 30% in the overall population.

Infographic: How do antivirals treat and protect against influenza?

This ECDC infographic explains how antivirals treat and protect against influenza. The recommendations to treat patients with severe influenza are based on the evidence from randomised controlled trials, observational studies, extrapolation from studies, and a generally benign safety profile of these medicines.