People shielding from coronavirus and those aged over 50 will be eligible for a free flu vaccine later this year, as part of the government’s expanded vaccination programme announced today.
The Department of Health and Social Care said providers will work to vaccinate more than 30 million people during the flu season, nearly double the number of people vaccinated in 2019/20.
Public Health England data shows that 15.3 million people were vaccinated last year, including over 65s, those in clinical at-risk groups, pregnant women, children aged two to three, healthcare workers and all primary school children.
The new flu vaccination programme, described by the government as “the most comprehensive in UK history”, will also include those on the Shielded Patient List and members of their household, as well as people aged between 50 and 64.
Health and Social Care 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.”
Once vaccination of the most ‘at-risk’ groups is well underway, the department said it will work with clinicians to decide when to open the programme to invite people aged 50-64, with further details to be announced. The NHS will contact people directly, including information about where to go to get the vaccine.
The government said increased vaccinations will help to reduce pressure on the NHS this winter by preventing flu-sickness, which can cause hospitalisation and death.
Chief Medical Officer, professor Chris Whitty said: “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.”