Member of the Western Pacific Region Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System (2013). Seasonal influenza vaccine policies, recommendations and use in the World Health Organization's Western Pacific Region. Western Pacific Surveillance and Response (WPSAR) 4(3): 51-59
Objective: Vaccination is the most effective way to prevent seasonal influenza and its severe outcomes. The objective of our study was to synthesize information on seasonal influenza vaccination policies, recommendations and practices in place in 2011 for all countries and areas in the World Health Organization’s Western Pacific Region.
Methods: Data were collected via a questionnaire requesting data and information on seasonal influenza vaccination policies and recommendations and practices in place in 2011.
Results: Thirty-six of the 37 countries and areas (97%) responded to the survey. Eighteen (50%) reported having established seasonal influenza vaccination policy, seven (19%) reported having recommended risk groups to target with seasonal influenza vaccination, and 11 (30%) reported having no policy or recommendations in place. Of the 25 countries and areas with policy or recommendations, health-care workers and the elderly were most frequently recommended for vaccination, with 24 (96%) countries and areas recommending these groups, followed by pregnant women (19 [76%]), people with chronic illness (18 [72%]), and children (15 [60%]). Twenty-six (72%) countries and areas reported having seasonal influenza vaccines available through public funding, private market purchase or both. Most of these countries and areas purchased only enough vaccine to cover 25% or less of their populations.
Discussion: In light of the new WHO position paper on influenza vaccines and increasing availability of country-specific data, countries and areas should consider reviewing or developing their seasonal influenza vaccination policies to reduce morbidity and mortality associated with annual epidemics and as part of ongoing efforts for pandemic preparedness.