Flu vaccines are issued each year to those at risk of catching flu and is offered free on the NHS to those eligible. Vulnerable groups of people can become seriously ill or even die from the flu – influenza – and so the NHS offers the jab to those most in need. Now the 2020/21 flu vaccine will be offered to double the number of people than usual, with a target of 30 million vaccinations.
Last year the number of flu vaccines given was 15 million, but the Government has extended the free jab to those aged 50 and over and 11-year-olds.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in July he wants “everybody to get a flu jab” after experts have raised concerns of the double whammy of COVID-19 cases and seasonal flu.
Speaking to reporters Mr Johnson said: “We want everybody to get a flu jab in the run-up to this winter and that’s why we’re rolling out the biggest ever programme of flu immunisation.
“And we’re aiming first of all for schoolchildren up to Year 7, for pregnant women, for people over 65, for people who are shielded, but then we will be extending it to people who are 50 to 65.
“Now the reason for doing this is to protect the NHS in the winter months because obviously we have still got covid, we have still got the threat of a second spike on covid and it’s vital therefore to keep that pressure off the NHS by everybody getting a flu jab and I really hope everybody will.”
Asked on BBC Breakfast if people aged 50 to 64 should worry that there might not be enough flu vaccine, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “No, because those who are under 65 are less likely to have a bad flu and to end up in hospital than the over-65s.”
“But of course we want to go as far as we can and so, for the over-50s, the jab will be available once we have done the core work of trying to get to as many of the over-65s and those who have got underlying health conditions as possible.”
Earlier he said: “We have the biggest flu jab programme ever this autumn; we’ve expanded it because we don’t want a flu outbreak at the same time as dealing with coronavirus.”
Mr Hancock said changes to the law will enable health workers such pharmacists, nurses and technicians to also administer jabs.
Previously the jab had been available to those aged 65 and over, pregnant women, those with certain medical conditions or those living in a long-term care facility.
Frontline health and social care workers are also eligible to receive the flu vaccine.
Children over six months with a long-term health condition, those aged two and three and those in primary school are also eligible for the vaccine.
When is the NHS flu vaccine available?
According to the NHS, the best time to have a flu vaccine is in the autumn, starting from the beginning of October through to the end of January.
You can arrange an appointment with your GP, local pharmacy or for pregnant women, your midwife may offer the jab.
Seasonal flu is typically seen in the UK between December and March, however, outbreaks can be seen as early as October and as late as May.
This year, the Government’s aim is for all those eligible to have had their vaccine by Christmas.
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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.”
Where can you get the flu vaccine?
You can have your NHS flu vaccine at:
- your GP surgery
- a local pharmacy offering the service
- your midwifery service if they offer it for pregnant women
Some community pharmacies now offer flu vaccination to adults (but not children) at risk of flu.
This includes pregnant women, people aged 65 and over, people with long-term health conditions and carers.
If you have your flu vaccine at a pharmacy, you do not have to inform a GP. It is up to the pharmacist to do that.
The type of vaccine you receive depends on your age, health conditions or whether you are pregnant.
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