In a report – published last week (August 31) – on vaccine effectiveness during the 2016-17 season, Public Health England (PHE) said the jab had “no significant effectiveness” among the over-65 age group.
A PHE spokesperson told C+D this was because over 65’s have “weaker immune systems” and are “more frail”, making them “more susceptible to getting flu”.
Recovery “faster” with a vaccination
However, Rekha Shah, flu vaccination lead for London's local pharmaceutical committees (LPCs), said pharmacies should continue to vaccinate the elderly, because inoculated patients are "likely" to suffer "less virulent" flu and recovery will "probably [be] faster".
“As a pharmacist, I would recommend people get the jab,” Ms Shah told C+D. “Even if it gives minimal protection, it’s better than nothing.”
The jabs “have minimal risk, they're very easy to access, there's minimal discomfort, [and they’re] very cost-effective”, she continued.
According to PHE, vaccination uptake in elderly patients last season was 70.5%. Ms Shah said: “More and more people are coming forward to get their jabs earlier now, because we've made it so much easier for them."
Vaccine is still working
A PHE spokesperson told C+D the effectiveness of the flu jab for the elderly was “still low last year and continues to be low this year".
However, they added it is "definitely still worth people continuing to get the vaccine, because it is still working".
Rosie Taylor, head of service development at the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC), told C+D yesterday (September 6) that the negotiator advises community pharmacists to continue to provide flu vaccinations to patients in all eligible groups.
It is “important” patients are vaccinated annually, as the vaccines “contain different strains from year to year”, Ms Taylor added.
Pharmacy “ready” for children’s flu jab
The PHE report showed an average of 65.8% vaccine effectiveness in patients aged 2-17 years. PHE said it is “important” this group receive the vaccine, to increase “herd immunity”.
Ms Shah stressed she has been lobbying for London pharmacies to offer the vaccine to this age group for “four and a half years”.
Though this is unlikely to happen soon, NHS England "might end up having to [commission it] eventually", Ms Shah added.