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NHS scraps free flu vaccines for millions of over-50s and teenagers next winter

Flu vaccination has been recommended vulnerable groups in the UK since the late 1960s.

Emily Sergeant Emily Sergeant - 4th March 2022

The NHS’s rollout of free flu vaccinations to over-50s and secondary school-aged children is soon to come to an end.

Millions more flu jabs were rolled out to anybody over the age of 50 and children in school years seven to 11 as part of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis amid fears of an outbreak back in November 2020, but it’s now been revealed that this eligibility will be cut next winter as the NHS attempts to return to pre-pandemic rules.

In guidance issued this week on the NHS England website, officials say eligibility for the flu vaccine will be narrowed in 2022/23.

The letter told NHS workers and pharmacies: “We would like to extend a huge thank you to all those involved for your hard work during very challenging times which led to some of the best flu vaccine uptake rates ever achieved.”

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Read more: Free flu vaccines to be offered to all over 50s in preparation for winter

But despite this change in eligibility apparently having been communicated to medical staff, Dr Leyla Hannbeck, the chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies, told The Telegraph: “No one has communicated to the public that the offer of flu jabs this year is going to be any different to last year.

“Last year over-50s were being told they should get their jab, now the advice has changed, but no one is explaining why.

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“It’s going to cause so much confusion.”

The decision appears to go against the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), according to minutes from December seen by the Telegraph.

According to the newspaper, the minutes said the JCVI “remained supportive of fully extending the childhood programme on a routine basis which is highly cost effective”, and added that it would be “acceptable to vaccinate 50-64 year olds for the 2022/23 season if funding available.”

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Flu vaccination has been recommended vulnerable groups in the UK since the late 1960s.

Between 2015 to 2020, more than 11,000 people died per year with flu on average, and in 2019/20, 86% of flu deaths were of people over the age of 65.

Those said to be eligible for flu vaccinations in 2022/23 will be:

  • Those aged 65 and over
  • Children (over six months) and adults (under 65) in clinical risk groups
  • All children aged two to 10 on 31 August 2022
  • Pregnant women
  • Care home residents
  • Carers
  • Close contacts of immunocompromised people
  • Frontline health and social care workers (through employers).

Featured Image – Flickr