Thursday, January 6, 2011

Why Andrew Lansley was right to cancel the vaccination advertising campaign

"The Health Secretary has been silent. The only attention he’s paid to preparations for this winter’s flu outbreak was to axe the autumn advertising campaign to encourage people to get vaccinated and make them aware of the risks." said John Healey Shadow Health Minister about the flu which struck just before Christmas and continues today, but was The Health Secretary right? Would an advertising campaign have made a difference?

Lansley has already jumped on Healey for his other comments in relation to choosing not to vaccinate under 5s for what he described as "cost reasons", but has been less strongly defended his decision to axe the annual advertising campaign. He's only said that he didn't believe that an advertising campaign would have made a difference.

Well according to the Interim Chief Medical Officer who was on Radio 4's PM this evening new Department of Health figures show it wouldn't have. Why? Because it turns out that at risk group vaccination levels are now at the same level as last year. In fact if supplied doses of vaccine are anything to go by then 14.7 million doses (roughly last year's number) have been delivered and 98% of them were delivered to GPs for use by the end of November.

In December the uptake rate was seen to be roughly 2% lower than last year which seeing as uptake is now the same was hardly a concern then and certainly isn't now. Also I can't find anything to say if that is 2% lower than last year or December last year which is important. Plus don't forget last year saw mega media coverage thanks to swine flu.

But people have died because the campaign was cancelled Labour supporters scream. However the figures before Christmas don't seem to bear that out with 39 deaths, 38 of them under 65 so not in what is the largest at risk group (although there has today been a horrific case of a recently pregnant woman dying due to complications due to swine flu and pneumonia, and there is now evidence that pregnant women died in the 09/10 outbreaks due to clinical failures to diagnose and treat swine flu quickly enough)

So in my view Lansley made the right choice. Government advertising spending was out of control (up from £59m in 1998 to £232m in 2009) and had to be cut. I've seen two figures for the cost of this campaign one said £1.5m the other £180,000. I find it hard to believe you can get much of a national ad campaign with significant reach for £180,000 though, but even if it was only that, it was still the right choice. If we keep everything just because it doesn't have six zeroes after it the deficit will never come down.

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  1. If Lansley was right to cancel the advertising campaign, why did he reinstate it? He didn't reinstate it because he wanted to, it was media pressure.

  2. He hasn't he's restarted the "Catch it, Bin it, Kill it" campaign which was released during the swine flu outbreak. The campaign tells you to use a tissue and throw it away (Rocket science?) There's nothing in it about getting vaccinated.