A report by the International Longevity Centre – UK (ILC-UK) (Public Health in Europe During the Austerity Years) has highlighted how flu vaccination coverage among older people has fallen across Europe between 2004 and 2014.
ILC-UK report that the fall was widespread and in some countries, quite dramatic. For instance, in Croatia the proportion vaccinated against flu fell from around 45% of people aged over 65 in 2004 to less than 20% by 2014. Only Denmark, Portugal, Germany and the UK increased levels of coverage during this time.
ILC-UK argue that vaccination coverage rates for flu have been recognised as sub-optimal – falling well below the 75% level recommended by the EU council.
There are both health and economic reasons to raise vaccination coverage. Robust attempts to calculate the economic benefits of higher flu vaccination coverage are challenging due to the lack of good comparable data on flu hospitalisation and mortality, but credible efforts have been made.
In particular, Preaud et al find that between 1.6 and 1.7 million influenza cases could be prevented each year in Europe. This would mean half a million fewer general practitioner visits, 23,800-31,400 fewer hospitalisations, 9,800-14,300 fewer deaths, and avoidance of almost 1 million lost days of work. Overall, the authors estimate that between €190 million and €226 million could be saved every year .
ILC-UK plan to publish new research in 2018 on how to increase uptake of the influenza vaccine.