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Seasonal influenza is widely regarded as a continuing threat to public health, with vaccination remaining the principal measure of prophylaxis. In 2003, the World Health Organization issued targets for influenza vaccine coverage in the elderly of at least 50% by 2006 and 75% by 2010, endorsed by the European Parliament in two resolutions in 2005 and 2006. However, a number of European public health systems lack mechanisms to assess progress in influenza vaccine uptake. The European Vaccine Manufacturers group (EVM) undertook a Europe-wide survey of vaccine distribution over the last five seasons (between 2003 and 2008) to provide baseline data from which vaccination trends may be extrapolated. The survey data showed that the dose distribution level per capita in the 27 EU countries increased from 17% in 2003-4 to 20% in 2006-7; this growth was not maintained in the season 2007-8. Even without information on which age or risk groups received the vaccine, an immunisation rate of approximately 20% of the whole population falls short of the public health goal by more than half: an estimated 49% of the total population fall into risk groups recommended to receive the influenza vaccine in Europe. These data provide the only systematic review of vaccine dose distribution across Europe from a uniform source. Although they represent an important baseline parameter, age- and risk-group related vaccine uptake data with sufficient detail are needed to assist public health policy decision making, immunisation planning and monitoring. In light of this situation, and to support the improvement of immunisation rates across the EU, EVM aims to provide dose distribution data for each influenza season to assist Member States in the implementation of local immunisation policies.


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