04 Oct 2019
More than 25 million people - nearly half the UK population - will be offered a flu vaccine in the biggest winter flu vaccination campaign the NHS has seen. And for the first time, all primary school children will be offered the nasal spray vaccine.
A trio of England’s top medics have urged those at risk of suffering from or spreading flu to ensure they get their free NHS vaccination this winter.
The NHS in England has prepared for its largest ever flu protection drive to help keep people well and ease pressure on urgent care services over the colder months.
The number of people eligible has topped 25 million this year as the offer of the vaccine is now extended to all primary school aged children – an extra 600,000 children. NHS commissioned school vaccination teams, maternity services, general practices and local pharmacies are all now gearing up to deliver vaccines to primary school aged children, two and three-year olds, those with underlying health conditions, pregnant women and older adults (aged 65 years and over).
Employers of frontline health and social care workers also have a responsibility to ensure their staff can 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.
Professor Yvonne Doyle, Medical Director at Public Health England, said:
“Every winter there is always the threat of a bad flu season. Flu is a serious illness and can even be deadly for the most vulnerable of our population.
“That’s why it’s vital that we are prepared and always working to offer people better protection.
“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.
“If you or your child are in an eligible group, make sure you get a flu vaccine. It’s the best defence we have against an unpredictable virus”
Professor Stephen Powis, NHS England national medical director, said:
“People might think that flu is just a cough or cold, but actually this serious illness can have devastating effects on people including causing death in some cases.
“NHS services across in England have been working hard to prepare for the winter season, including staff in every part of the country getting their flu jab in the coming weeks, so now we’re appealing to the public to Help Us, Help You by ensuring that you, your children or relatives take up the free and convenient flu vaccine as soon as you can.”
This year, a wider range of flu vaccines are available which should offer better protection. This includes the ‘adjuvanted’ vaccine which was offered to those aged 65 years and over for the first-time last year. The adjuvanted vaccine provided a higher level of protection compared to the standard non-adjuvanted vaccines in this age group last year.
In addition, a new cell-based vaccine which protects against four strains of flu (quadrivalent) will also be available. As the vaccine virus is grown in cells, rather than eggs, this avoids the changes that can occur when using eggs in the manufacturing process (egg adaptation). There is increasing evidence in recent seasons that egg adaptation may mean that vaccines do not work as well, particularly against the A(H3N2) virus strain. This vaccine should offer better protection for older people against flu than standard-dose, non-adjuvanted vaccines that are grown in eggs. The cell-based vaccine has been recommended for both older adults and for under 65s with underlying health conditions and pregnant women. Children will continue to be given the nasal spray vaccine unless they have a medical condition that means they should receive the injectable version.
If you fall into one of the target groups (underlying health conditions, pregnant women and adults aged 65 years and over) please contact your GP practice more for information. People who are not in one of target groups can pay privately to be vaccinated at their local pharmacy.