Providers will work to vaccinate more than 30 million people during this flu season – millions more than received it last year.
The most comprehensive flu vaccination programme in the UK’s history has been announced by the government.
A significant new group will be eligible for the free flu vaccine as people aged 50 to 64 will be invited later in the season for a vaccination.
The UK government has confirmed that pharmacists will be involved in the delivery of this revised flu campaign.
As part of an unprecedented drive, a free flu vaccine will also be available to:
- People who are on the shielded patient list and members of their household.
- All school year groups up to year 7.
- People aged over 65, pregnant women, those with pre-existing conditions including at-risk under 2s.
Once vaccination of the most ‘at-risk’ groups is well underway, the department will work with clinicians to decide when to open the programme to invite people aged 50 to 64, with further details to be announced. The NHS will contact people directly, including information about where to go to get the vaccine.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said:
“It’s mission critical that we pull out all the stops to get ready for winter, and the Prime Minister has already announced £3 billion to protect the NHS.
“We are now taking another important step to help protect the wider public by giving the flu vaccination to more people than ever before. This will be the biggest flu vaccination programme in history, and will help protect our NHS as we head into winter.
“If you are eligible for a free vaccine, whether it’s for the first time or because you usually receive one, then I would urge you to get it, not just to protect yourself, but to protect the NHS and your loved ones, from flu.
“The flu can be a serious disease, especially for vulnerable people or those with underlying health conditions.
“Eligible groups are urged to get their free vaccine every year. However, with COVID-19 still in circulation, this year’s campaign will be particularly vital to protect the most vulnerable and reduce the number of people needing flu treatment from the NHS.”
RPS Director of Pharmacy and Member Experience Robbie Turner said:
“The Government’s plan to expand the flu vaccination programme is excellent news. It will help patients, ready the NHS for the risk of a second peak of coronavirus and relieve winter pressures on A&E and emergency care.
“The seasonal flu campaign helps protect vulnerable groups from winter flu by offering free vaccinations. Flu is a potentially fatal condition and the significant expansion of the programme will protect the health of many more people.
“Pharmacists have been an integral part of the vaccination programme for several years, so it makes sense for them to help deliver this expanded programme. Pharmacies are typically open longer hours than GP surgeries and can often offer vaccinations at any time, making them a very convenient and easy way to protect the public against flu.”
Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty said:
“Flu can have serious consequences and vulnerable people can die of it. Having the vaccine protects you, and helps reduce transmission to others.
“This winter more than ever, with COVID-19 still circulating, we need to help reduce all avoidable risks. Vaccinating more people will help reduce flu transmission and stop people from becoming ill.”
Dr Vanessa Saliba, Head of Flu at PHE said:
“The flu vaccine is the best defence we have against what can be a serious and even deadly illness.
“This winter, more people than ever will be offered a free flu vaccine. We are urging anyone who is eligible to take up the offer of vaccination. By getting the jab, you can help protect yourself, your family and the NHS – it will help save lives.”
Dr Nikki Kanani, GP and NHS medical director for primary care, said:
“Getting a free NHS flu vaccination is a quick and simple way that people can help to save lives and reduce pressure on our hardworking frontline staff this winter.
“GPs, nurses, community pharmacists and others will be going to great lengths this year to give this vital protection to millions more people in a safe and convenient way, so when the time comes I would urge everyone invited for a flu vaccination to get it as soon as possible.”
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