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Despite the complexities of rolling out the largest national NHS flu immunisation programme during a Covid-19 winter, community pharmacies, GPs and others have vaccinated a record 80.3 per cent of those aged 65 years and over in England against flu so far this year.

This is the highest uptake ever achieved for this group and is just under 10 per cent higher than this time last year, exceeding the World Health Organization uptake ambition of 75 per cent, Public Health England’s latest data has revealed.

Uptake in two- and three-year-old children is also the highest ever recorded, at 54 per cent and 56.5 per cent respectively.

Flu vaccine uptake rates are also higher than the same period during the last winter season for all other eligible groups. This includes an uptake rate of 51.5 per cent in clinical at-risk groups aged under 65 years, which is the highest achieved figure in the last seven seasons.

Pharmacy minister Jo Churchill said: “It is fantastic to see that despite the unique challenges of this winter, more over 65s than ever before have had their flu vaccination and that there is such high uptake across the eligible groups.

“Every year health and care staff do an incredible job rolling out the flu vaccine, and this year the Covid-19 vaccine too, to protect us all.”

As of December 1, all 50 to 64 year olds became eligible for the flu vaccine and 26.1 per cent of those in the age group have taken up the offer so far.

Meanwhile, NHS England has achieved some of the highest flu vaccine uptake rates in Europe for healthcare workers, with an uptake of 74.3 per cent by the end of the season in 2019 to 2020. By the end of November 2020, 70.5 per cent of frontline healthcare workers had already been vaccinated, compared to 61.5 per cent at the same period last year.

This means more than 120,000 additional healthcare workers had been vaccinated than the same time last year.

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