Introduction: Through a phased rollout, the UK is implementing annual influenza vaccination for all healthy children aged 2-16 years old. In the first year of the programme in England in 2013/14, all 2-3 year olds were offered influenza vaccine through primary care and a primary school age programme was piloted, mainly through schools, in geographically distinct areas. Equitable delivery is a key aim of the programme; it is unclear if concerns by some religious groups over influenza vaccine content have impacted on uptake.
Methods: At the end of the 2013/14 season, variations in uptake for 2-3 year olds and 4-11 year olds were assessed and stratified by population-level predictors: deprivation, ethnicity, religious beliefs and rurality. GP practice or school level uptake was linearly regressed against these variables to determine potential predictors and changes in uptake, adjusting for significant factors.
Results: Uptake varied considerably by geographic locality for both 2-3 year olds and 4-11 year olds. Lower uptake was seen in increasingly deprived areas, with an adjusted uptake in the most deprived quintile 12% and 8% lower than the least deprived areas by age-group respectively. By ethnicity, the highest non-white population quartile had an adjusted uptake 9% and 14% lower than the lowest non-white quartile by age-group respectively. Uptake also varied according to religious beliefs, with adjusted uptake in 4-11 year olds in the highest Muslim population tertile 8% lower than the lowest Muslim population tertile.
Conclusion: In the first season of the childhood influenza vaccination programme, uptake was not uniform across the country, with deprivation and ethnicity both predictors of low uptake in pre-school and primary school age children, and religious beliefs also an important factor, particularly the latter group. With the continued rollout of the programme, these population-level factors should be addressed to achieve sustained successful uptake, along with assessment of contribution of individual and household-level factors.
Keywords: Children; Epidemiology; Influenza; Vaccination.
Copyright © 2015. Published by Elsevier Ltd.