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Wider range of flu vaccines offered as campaign begins

30 million to be offered free NHS flu jab this winter

Adrian O'Dowd

Friday, 04 October 2019

A record number of people – around 30 million – in the UK will be offered the free flu vaccination this winter as this year’s campaign gets underway today.

The government has sought to reassure existing concerns about supply, saying that most flu vaccine stock ordered will be available in the UK by the end of this month.

The health service has prepared for its largest ever flu protection drive to help keep people well therefore easing pressure on urgent care services over the winter, said the government.

The number of people eligible around the UK is calculated to be 30 million this year because the offer of the vaccine is now extended to all primary school aged children – an extra 600,000 children than last year.

This year, a wider range of flu vaccines are available which should offer better protection, said Public Health England (PHE).

All children aged two to 11 years will be offered nasal spray vaccination while everyone aged over 65 will be offered the adjuvanted trivalent vaccine (aTIV) or QIVc.

In addition, a new cell-based vaccine which protects against four strains of flu (quadrivalent) will also be available for people under 65 with an underlying medical condition and pregnant women.

PHE said general practices, NHS commissioned school vaccination teams, maternity services, and local pharmacies were all now gearing up to provide vaccines while employers of frontline health and social care workers also had a responsibility to ensure their staff could get the free vaccine.

A record number of NHS staff – almost three quarters of a million, or 70.3% of frontline workers – took up their workplace jab last year.

The Department of Health & Social Care said that three of the four suppliers of vaccines for adults had said they would deliver all of their stock before the end of this month.

However, Sanofi Pasteur had experienced delays due to manufacturing problems and the World Health Organisation’s process to decide which strains of flu should be covered by this year’s vaccine. This meant Sanofi Pasteur would deliver a third of its deliveries after 31 October.

Professor Yvonne Doyle, medical director at PHE, said: “This year, more vaccines are available and every primary school child will be offered a flu vaccine. Children are ‘super spreaders’ of flu. Flu vaccination not only protects the children but it also protects other more vulnerable members of the community from a potentially horrible illness.”

Professor Jonathan Van Tam, deputy chief medical officer for England, said: “Flu is a potentially fatal illness and one that can spread quickly. Alongside frontline healthcare workers, tens of millions of over-65s, children and adults in at-risk groups will be offered the vaccine this year and I would urge them, and those that care for them, to ensure this free opportunity is taken up in the coming weeks.

“Having the vaccine is the single best way to protect against flu and will be an important step in preventing not only you, but your family, friends and colleagues from this debilitating illness.”

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