Influenza vaccination policy for elderly people in Britain has changed twice since 1997 to increase protection against influenza but there is no information available on how this has affected vaccine uptake, and socioeconomic variation therein, among people aged over 74 years.
Vaccination information for 1997–2000 was collected directly from general practices taking part in a MRC-funded Trial of the Assessment and Management of Older People in the Community. This was linked to information collected during assessments carried out as part of the Trial. Regression modelling was used to assess relative probabilities (as relative risks, RR) of having vaccination according to year, gender, age, area and individual socioeconomic characteristics.
Out of 106 potential practices, 73 provided sufficient information to be included in the analysis. Uptake was 48% (95% CI 45%, 55%) in 1997 and did not increase substantially until 2000 when the uptake was a third higher at 63% (50%, 66%). Vaccination uptake was lower among women than men (RR 0.9), people aged 85 or more compared to people aged under 80 (RR 0.9), those in the most deprived areas (RR 0.8) compared to the least deprived, and was relatively high for those in owner-occupied homes with central heating compared to other non-supported housing (RR for remainder = 0.9). This pattern did not change over the years studied.
Increased uptake in 2000 may have resulted from the additional financial resources given to practices; it was not at the expense of more disadvantaged socioeconomic groups but nor did they benefit disproportionately.