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Seasonal flu vaccination 2015/16

27 October 2015

Flu immunisation remains the most effective method to help protect against influenza infection. By being immunised doctors help protect not only themselves and their family, but also their most vulnerable patients. Doctors have a responsibility to do everything possible to protect their patients against infection. Section 29 of the General Medical Council’s 2013 Good Medical Practice Guidance states: “You should be immunised against common serious communicable diseases (unless otherwise contraindicated)”.

Last year only 55% of frontline health and social care workers were immunised against influenza. We can and should do much better than this. A mismatch between one of the strains of flu contained in the vaccine and the subsequently circulating strains was reported to have led to a lower level of protection against infection. Recently published end of season data, however, indicates that the overall level of protection last year was higher than initially estimated. The data by Public Health England is published in Euro surveillance.

The vaccine is reviewed every year by the World Health Organisation and throughout the last decade, there has generally been a good match between the strains of flu selected in the vaccine and those that subsequently circulated, with the vaccine providing good protection.

From the Chief Medical Officer,
Professor Dame Sally C Davies FRS FMedSci
Richmond House
79 Whitehall

Flu vaccination is important and I urge you to support the programme by publicising the facts about the programme to your members. Once again, thank you for your support. If
you would like any further information please email

Yours sincerely

From Public Health England

The facts are:

  • flu causes severe illness and deaths each year particularly among at-risk groups, including: older people; pregnant women; and those with a long-term health condition, even one that is well managed. This is why flu vaccination is offered to the at-risk groups each year before the flu virus starts to circulate
    vaccination is the best protection we have against the unpredictable influenza virus. It is crucial that if you are eligible, you get vaccinated early before people start getting flu
  • the flu virus continually changes and evolves – it is unpredictable. In February each year, the World Health Organisation recommends the strains of flu virus that should be included in the flu vaccine for the Northern hemisphere for the forthcoming season. These strains are those predicted to circulate in the coming season. There is always the possibility that the virus will change (drift) after the point at which vaccine strain selection has taken place, although this is unusual
  • the decision on flu vaccine strains needs to made in February by the World Health Organisation because it takes six to seven months for vaccine manufacturers to produce sufficient quantities of the vaccine for the Northern hemisphere
  • generally there has been a good match between the strains of flu in the vaccine and those that subsequently circulate in the community resulting in protection of around 50% (ranging from 30 to 70%)
  • in 2014 to 2015, the adult flu vaccine used in the UK was found to 34% effective against the circulating strains of flu. This was towards the lower end of the range but higher than the figure reported during the flu season.

Expanding the child flu vaccination programme this year:

  • this year, all children aged 2-4, and children in school year 1 and 2, will be offered flu vaccine
  • vaccinating children each year will not only provide important protection to the child, but also protect their close family and contacts because children are more likely to transmit the virus to others, including those in the at-risk groups
  • the flu vaccine for children is a nasal spray and is different to the adult vaccine which is a jab
  • we have already seen evidence from pilot programmes in England that the child flu vaccine reduces the rates of illness in both vaccinated age-groups, but also in unvaccinated groups

Public Health England has published a blog answering some common questions around flu vaccine effectiveness and drift. It can be viewed by searching ‘flu vaccine’ at