More than 35 million people will be able to access free flu vaccines this winter as the UK prepares to face a double threat of coronavirus and influenza.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid has said the flu programme which will begin in September will be the biggest in the UK’s history as it will extend to secondary school students too.
Covid measures including social distancing, mandatory mask wearing in public places and a reduction in foreign travel has resulted in lower flu levels in 2020-21.
But, the Department of Health and Social Care believe it is possible that levels will be higher this winter as more of the population could be susceptible to contracting flu, given the low levels last season.
More than 35 million people will be able to access free flu vaccines this winter as the UK prepares to face a double threat of coronavirus and influenza
NHS England and Improvement, and Public Health England have issued the 2021-22 annual flu letter to providers, outlining their plans for this year’s expanded programme.
Who is eligible for free flu jab this September?
Up to 35m people will get the flu jab for free
- People aged 50 and over
- All secondary school students up to Year 11
- All primary school children
- Pregnant women
- Children aged two and three as of August 31
- Unpaid carers
- Frontline Health staff
- Frontline Adult Social Care staff
From September, 35 million people including all secondary school students up to Year 11, children aged two and three on August 31, all primary school children, people aged 50 and over, pregnant women, unpaid carers, and frontline health and adult social care staff will be eligible for the free jab.
The drive will build on last year’s expanded flu programme, which saw a record 19 million jabs being administered.
Mr Javid encouraged all those eligible to get their flu jab when they are called.
‘Flu can be a serious illness and we want to build a wall of protection by immunising a record number of people,’ he said.
‘With the nation getting closer to normal life, we must learn to live with Covid-19 alongside other viruses and we’re offering the free flu jab to millions more people to help keep them safe this winter.
‘The phenomenal scale of the Covid-19 vaccination programme is a clear demonstration of the positive impact vaccination can make and I encourage all those eligible to get their flu jab when called forward.’
Public Health England medical director Dr Yvonne Doyle said the upcoming flu season will be ‘highly unpredictable’ combined with ‘the likelihood that Covid-19 will still be circulating.’
The flu programme is expected to be delivered alongside any booster programme for Covid-19 vaccinations.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation is expected to publish its final advice on the Covid booster jab programme later this summer.
Last month, the committee published interim guidance setting out the priority list on who should get a third Covid jab if the booster programme goes ahead.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid (pictured) has said the flu programme which will begin in September will be the biggest in the UK’s history as it will extend to secondary school pupils
The first stage of the booster programme will see 15 million of the most vulnerable people across the UK offered a third jab, including those over 70, health and care workers, older care home residents, and those who are vulnerable and immunocompromised.
The second stage will extend to those over 50, adults over the age of 16 who are usually offered a NHS flu jab, those aged 16-49 in a Covid at-risk group, and people who are in regular contact with someone who is immunocompromised.
In a letter sent to senior leaders, GPs and hospital bosses earlier this month, NHS England said health systems should be preparing to deliver booster doses of the coronavirus vaccination between September 6 and December 17.
NHS Providers Chief Executive Chris Hopson said people will to be vaccinated for flu and coronavirus for ‘years to come’.
‘Rolling out a flu programme of this scale alongside a Covid booster campaign will take a huge amount of planning, collaboration and commitment, particularly from primary care,’ he said.
‘It is incredibly ambitious in its scale and complexity, and while we have no doubt the NHS can meet this challenge, we do need to think about how we enable NHS staff to carry out this programme while meeting the other pressures they face.
‘We’ll be vaccinating against flu and Covid for years to come so let’s put our approach on a sustainable footing as soon as possible.’