Millions more Brits are set to receive a flu vaccination this winter with the government announcing the most comprehensive programme in UK history.
Friday’s announcement comes alongside the £3 billion for the NHS announced by the Prime Minister earlier this month to relieve winter pressures on A&E and emergency care in case of a second spike in coronavirus infections.
Providers will work to vaccinate more than 30 million people during this flu season – with people on the Shielded Patient List and Year 7 pupils now among those eligible for a free jab.
While everyone over 50 and below 65 will be offered free vaccinations later in the season.
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The unprecedented drive will also see free jabs for all over 65s, pregnant women and those with pre-existing conditions – including at-risk under 2s.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “It’s mission critical that we pull out all the stops to get ready for winter.
“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,” he added.
Last year, the flu programme was expanded to include all primary school aged children for the first time.
Dr Nikki Kanani, GP and NHS medical director for primary care, said: “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.”
All front-line 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.
The funding, which is available immediately, will allow the NHS to continue using additional private hospital capacity and maintain the Nightingale hospitals until the end of March.
This will provide additional capacity for Covid-19 patients should it be needed, and allow the NHS to carry out routine treatments and procedures.