More must be done to explain benefits of flu vaccine, says report

The benefits of the flu vaccine for older people are not being conveyed effectively enough, says a new report by the International Longevity Centre UK (ILC-UK) out today.

The report ‘Under the skin: Understanding attitudes to adult immunisation against influenza‘ says more needs to be done to raise vaccination coverage rates among the older population by presenting immunisation as a positive and healthy lifestyle choice, just like taking vitamins or going for a walk.

Developed countries continue to fall behind World Health Organisation (WHO) uptake targets for adult flu vaccinations. Between 2005 and 2015, across Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries, the average rate of influenza vaccination among people aged 65 and over fell from 49% to 43%, significantly below the 75% target.

The report highlights that while older people feel responsible for their own health, vaccinations are associated with childhood and earlier stages of life. This results in a lack of awareness around the importance of immunisation across the life course.

Dan Holden, senior research fellow, ILC-UK, says there is a need to do more to explain the effectiveness of seasonal flu vaccines.

“Flu vaccinations must be re-framed not as an intervention for the very ill or frail, but as a healthy lifestyle choice that form part of people’s wider health behaviours to promote wellbeing throughout the life course,” he says.

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