Objectives: This study assessed influenza vaccination coverage rates in eleven European countries during seasons 2006/07 and 2007/08. The aims were to analyse vaccine uptake rates in the general population and in high-risk groups, including children, as well as to understand the principal drivers and barriers towards vaccination.
Methods: Community-based face-to-face interviews, telephone surveys or mailed surveys were conducted in UK, Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Austria, Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland, Poland and Portugal. Approximately 2000 representative adult individuals per country and season were interviewed. Data on the vaccination status of children were obtained by proxy interviews. For the analysis, five target groups were defined.
Results: Vaccination coverage levels in the general population ranged from 9.5% (Poland) to 28.7% (UK) during season 2007/08. In comparison with the previous season, only minor increases were visible. The coverage in the elderly target group was highest at 70.2% in the UK and lowest at 13.9% in Poland. The vaccination rate of chronically ill persons ranged from 11.1% (Poland) to 56.0% (UK). Vaccination levels among health care workers were generally low. Vaccine uptake in children was lowest in Ireland (4.2%) and highest in Germany (19.3%). Respondents from all countries were aware of the seriousness of influenza as a disease. People who had never been vaccinated regarded being infected as unlikely. The advice from a family doctor or a nurse was deemed as the main encouraging factor for vaccination.
Conclusions: During 2007/08, influenza vaccination coverage rates differed widely between countries, not only in the general population but also in the predefined at-risk groups. Generally, the increases in coverage compared to the previous season were marginal. Overcoming the barriers and implementing the driving forces identified by our surveys may help to increase vaccine uptake and to reach the corresponding WHO goals.