Flu vaccine to be made available to more people this year
Date published: 27 July 2020
Mayor Billy Sheerin receiving his flu jab last year at Rochdale Infirmary
The annual flu vaccination will be rolled out to more people than usual this winter, the government announced on Friday (24 July).
The expanded flu vaccination programme is part of plans to ready the NHS – both for the risk of a second peak of coronavirus cases, and to relieve winter pressures on A&E and emergency care.
The free vaccine will be available to those aged 50-64, as well as those who are on the shielded patient list (and members of their household), all school year groups up to Year 7, those over 65, pregnant women and those with pre-existing conditions, including at risk under twos.
Once vaccination of the most ‘at-risk’ groups is well underway, the Department of Health and Social Care 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.
The government is aiming to vaccinate more than 30 million people during this flu season – millions more than received it last year.
Increased vaccinations will help to reduce pressure on the NHS this winter by preventing flu-sickness which can cause hospitalisation and even death.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “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.
Last year, the flu programme was expanded to include all primary school aged children for the first time, and this year teams will be visiting secondary schools to vaccinate children in Year 7. This will help to contain the spread of this year’s seasonal flu and not only protect children but also vulnerable adults they may be in contact with.
All frontline health and social care workers will also be urged to get their free vaccine to protect themselves and their patients or residents from the 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 becoming ill.
Responding to the expansion of the flu vaccination programme, Councillor Paulette Hamilton, Vice Chair of the Local Government Association Community Wellbeing Board, said: “Extending the free winter flu jab to as many people as possible is essential if we are to tackle two potentially deadly viruses head-on and prevent one seasonable and predictable virus creating the conditions for a second, more serious and unpredictable deadly second wave of COVID-19.
“We are pleased the Government has widened the criteria for a free jab and urge it to consider whether a free flu jab can also be offered to everyone else in the country this year.
“It is absolutely critical that all our health and care workers get themselves vaccinated, to protect both themselves and the people they look after including our elderly and most vulnerable, from a potentially devastating second wave of infections.”
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