Millions flock to get flu jab

By Ella Pickover, PA Health Correspondent
·3-min read

Almost 10 million people have already received their flu jab, new figures show.

So far this year 9.5 million people have been vaccinated in GP surgeries and pharmacies in England, figures from the NHS show.

This is 2.5 million more than the same point last year.

The flu vaccination programme has been expanded this year so more people than ever are eligible for a free jab – up to 30 million people in England.

The expansion of the scheme is aimed at protecting the most vulnerable from the effects of flu and also helping the NHS cope during what is set to be a difficult winter.

During the winter months there are increases in the number of people seeking help for respiratory illnesses, such as flu.

This year, in addition to the usual winter pressures, hospitals are bracing themselves for the impact of a second wave of Covid-19 cases.

In September, health officials said people should “not be complacent” over flu, as they warned of the dire consequences of co-infection of flu and coronavirus.

Research from the first peak of the pandemic showed that people who were infected with both Covid-19 and flu had a significantly higher risk of death.

While the numbers were small, the risk of death was nearly six times greater among those co-infected compared with the general population.

In previous years, the rates of people getting their flu jab have been low among some groups.

But it is hoped that all those in eligible groups will accept their flu vaccine offer when it is sent to them this year.

The NHS has made an additional £15 million available to GP practices to help them extend their flu jab provision – additional money can be used to help family doctors make adjustments for social distancing and adopt alternative ways of delivering vaccines such as using different locations.

Dr Nikki Kanani, medical director for primary care for the NHS in England, said: “Frontline NHS staff are working harder than ever to prepare for winter and second waves of Covid.

“Teams are quickly adapting services so that people can get their flu vaccines safely and conveniently and it is thanks to these efforts that more than 9.5 million have already been vaccinated in GPs and pharmacies – 2.5 million more than the same time last year.

“If you are eligible, it has never been more important to get your free flu vaccine, so please help us help you and get it as soon as you possibly can – it could save your life or someone you love.”

This year people eligible for the free flu vaccine include:

– Primary school children and Year 7 pupils, who will be given the nasal spray in schools, and two and three-year-olds, who will be offered the vaccine through their GP.

– Those aged 65 and over, people with long-term health conditions, and pregnant women, who will be offered the vaccine through their GP or pharmacy.

– Household contacts of people who were instructed to “shield” during the first wave of the pandemic.

– Health and social care workers who have direct contact with the people they care for.

Once the first at-risk groups have been contacted, the vaccine programme will also be rolled out to include people over the age of 50.