European countries fail to meet flu vaccination targets

No country in Europe hit crucial flu vaccination targets among older people last winter, report reveals

  • Authorities recommend vaccinating 75 per cent of vulnerable people against flu
  • But not a single European country hit this target during the 2016-17 season
  • Thousands of people die each year from the usually-harmless illness 
  • Experts warn it is ‘unacceptable’ for health workers not to be vaccinated 

Countries in Europe have been urged to ensure more older people receive their annual flu jabs.

Experts recommend at least 75 per cent of people in vulnerable groups, including over-65s, receive the seasonal jab.

But none of 22 countries included in a report by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) reached the recommended level last year.

British countries were the best performing, with Scotland having the highest coverage at 72.8 per cent, followed by Northern Ireland then England and Wales.

Experts have now urged health officials in the nations to work harder to vaccinate vulnerable members of the public and health workers.

In the UK the flu jab is given out free to people over the age of 65, young children and other people such as those with certain chronic illnesses and pregnant women (stock image)

The report published by the ECDC revealed Estonia had the worst coverage among over-65s, with just two per cent of them being vaccinated.

Figures in the ranking table date from the 2016-17 flu season, the most recent point from which full data is available.

Latvia, Poland and Slovenia also sat at the bottom of the table, managing to vaccinate fewer than 10 per cent of senior citizens.

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While the Netherlands, the Republic of Ireland and Portugal followed in the leading footsteps of the UK, handing out the jab to 60 per cent or more.

The ECDC’s Dr Pasi Penttinen told The Telegraph: ‘Influenza is one of the most preventable communicable diseases.

‘The 75 per cent target rate was a political policy target, to aim at sufficient protection.

‘Really we want everyone that is in need to be protected, but it’s almost 10 years since the target was agreed and still very few countries are close.’

The UK’s flu season last year was the most devastating one for seven years, with figures showing around 15,000 people died. 

There are around 50million cases of the common virus in Europe each year, with around 40,000 people dying of it.



Although healthy people usually recover easily from the cold-like condition, those with weak immune systems are more at risk of serious, life-threatening complications.

Authorities recommend people over the age of 65, pregnant women, those with chronic or serious illnesses and young children get vaccinated.

Countries have been warned to vaccinate their doctors, nurses and other health workers, too, to avoid the infection spreading in hospitals and clinics.

‘It is completely unacceptable when healthcare workers in Europe are not covered,’ Dr Penttinen told the Telegraph.

‘Hospitals and health centres are places where especially vulnerable people in society are spending time.

‘There is a professional and moral duty of healthcare workers to ensure that they are not transmitting infections, including influenza.’

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