Vets could help give 30million Brits the flu jab as part of biggest vaccination programme in history

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VETS could administer the flu jab as part of the biggest ever vaccination programme in UK history.

Ministers aim to double uptake to cover more than 30 million people – half of all Brits – to help prevent the NHS being overwhelmed this winter.

Officials are now “actively considering” using animal doctors to hit the ambitious target.

Around 15 million people received the flu jab in England last year.

But health bosses plan to hugely expand the scheme to avoid a double-whammy of infections.

They fear a second wave of Covid during the coldest months could overrun hospitals, if it coincides with a major influenza outbreak.

As a result, for the first time ever children starting secondary school and everyone aged 50 to 64 will be offered the vaccine free on the NHS.

All shielded patients and their families will also be given the jab.

As revealed by The Sun in May, ministers are keen to vaccinate millions of extra Brits against flu so they can focus on tackling Covid.

A Government source said: “We will be pulling out all the stops to deliver the biggest flu vaccination programme in history.

“Vets are highly trained professionally with a wealth of talents.” Flu kills 17,000 Brits a year and can take up to 50,000 ward beds over winter on an average year.

The bumper immunisation programme will begin from September – with ministers securing more than 30 million doses.

It will cover all over-50s, children aged between two and 12, pregnant women, those with underlying health problems, and frontline health workers.

Eligible patients will be contacted directly by the NHS with information about where to get the vaccine.

Matt Hancock urged anyone who is invited for a jab to take up the offer.

The Health Secretary said: “It is 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.” England’s top doc has repeatedly warned Britain may face a second wave of Covid when the weather turns cold.

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.” Officials warned nurses and doctors should also get their jabs to protect vulnerable patients.

Uptake was 74.3 per cent among healthcare workers last year – but in some areas it was significantly lower.

Dr Vanessa Saliba, Head of Flu at Public Health England, said: “The flu vaccine is the best defence we have against what can be a serious and even deadly illness.

“This winter, more people than ever will be offered a free flu vaccine. We are urging anyone who is eligible to take up the offer of vaccination. By getting the jab, you can help protect yourself, your family and the NHS – it will help save lives.”

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