NHS flu vac programme targets 30 million people as expansion of eligible groups announced

NHS flu vac programme targets 30 million people as expansion of eligible groups announced

July 24, 2020

On 14th May 2020, Public Health England (PHE), the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), NHS England, and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) jointly published the Annual flu letter to provide further information on the national flu immunisation programme for 2020–21. The letter indicated that there could be expansions to the eligible groups.

Today, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has announced the following additional eligible groups, in a move that will now mean that more than 30 million people will be included in the eligibility criteria for 2020-21.

The new additional eligible groups are:

  • People aged 50 to 64;
  • Household contacts of those who are on the shielded patient list; and
  • An expansion of the schools’ programme to include the first year of secondary school (year 7).

The first two listed groups will be able to access vaccination from community pharmacies under the NHS flu vaccination service, however the offer of vaccination to the 50-64 years group will not commence until later in the season.

The announcement states that once vaccination of the most ‘at-risk’ groups is well underway, the Department will work with clinicians to decide when to open the programme to invite the new group for vaccination. The NHS will contact people directly to make them aware of their eligibility and will include information about where to go to get the vaccine.

The move is part of the Government’s plan ‘to ready the NHS – both for the risk of a second peak of coronavirus cases, and to relieve winter pressures on A&E and emergency care’.

In addition, the announcement indicates that all frontline health and social care workers will also be urged to get vaccinated vaccine to protect themselves and their patients or residents from the flu.

Read the full announcement here

Commenting on the announcement, Alastair Buxton, Director of NHS Services at PSNC said:

“We previously alerted pharmacy teams to the likely extension of the eligible cohorts for flu vaccination earlier this year and the Government’s confirmation of the new groups is welcome news as part of their wider efforts to minimise the impact of winter pressures on the health and care system, amid a global pandemic.

“We are working with NHS England and NHS Improvement to finalise the service specification for this year’s pharmacy flu vaccination service as quickly as possible, and today’s announcement publicly confirms the two new cohorts which pharmacies will be able to vaccinate.

“This year the flu season is set to be more challenging due to the need for social distancing and additional infection control measures, but we know that many pharmacy teams have already acted on our advice to consider how they can provide vaccinations in a COVID-safe manner, with the potential to use the flexibilities in the provision of the service which we are seeking in negotiations.

“These flexibilities include provision of the service outside of the consultation room and off the pharmacy premises and our advice to contractors on planning still stands and we hope to be able to confirm the details for this year’s service shortly.

“If the increased vaccination target is to be achieved, it will require team-working across primary care and it will therefore be more important than ever for pharmacy teams to work collaboratively with GP practices to vaccinate as many people as possible.”

Read more about the flexibilities PSNC is seeking in the flu vaccination service and further guidance for pharmacy teams on planning for their use

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