Flu Vaccination – introduction and background

Flu Vaccination – introduction and background

Each year from September through to January the NHS runs a seasonal flu vaccination campaign aiming to vaccinate all patients who are at risk of developing more serious complications from the virus. These include people aged 65 years and over, pregnant women and those with certain health conditions.

Community pharmacies have offered flu vaccinations as a private service for many years, often to a range of patients who would not qualify for NHS vaccinations and some who would but were prepared to pay for it anyway. The accessibility of pharmacies, their extended opening hours and the option to walk in without an appointment have proved popular with patients seeking vaccinations.

In recent years many pharmacies have also been commissioned to provide NHS flu vaccination services. These services sit alongside the nationally commissioned GP vaccination service, giving patients another choice of venue for their vaccination and helping commissioners to meet their local NHS vaccination targets. Many schemes demonstrated high levels of patient satisfaction and evidence that pharmacy vaccination is accessible, often capturing ‘hard to reach’ patients who would not otherwise take up the offer of vaccination.

PSNC worked to persuade the NHS of this success and of the value that a national service could bring and NHS England subsequently decided that from 2015/16 all community pharmacies should be allowed to vaccinate patients in at-risk groups against flu with the commissioning of a new Advanced Service.

Since 20th November 2017, community pharmacists have been able to vaccinate care home and domiciliary care workers as part of the Flu Vaccination Service. This includes all health and social care staff aged 18 and over, that are employed by a registered residential care/nursing home or registered domiciliary care provider who are directly involved in the care of vulnerable patients/clients who are at increased risk from exposure to influenza, meaning those patients/clients in a clinical risk group for flu or those aged 65 years and over.

Hospice care workers were also added as a new eligible group for the Flu Vaccination Service in 2018/19. Hospice care workers are health and care staff employed by a voluntary managed hospice provider who are directly involved in the care of vulnerable patients/clients who are at increased risk from exposure to influenza. Vulnerable means those patients/clients in a clinical risk group for flu or who are aged 65 years and over.

Immunisation is one of the most successful and cost-effective health protection interventions and is a cornerstone of public health. High immunisation rates are key to preventing the spread of infectious disease, complications and possible early death among individuals and protecting the population’s health through both individual and herd immunity.

For most healthy people, influenza is an unpleasant but usually self-limiting disease. However, children, older people, pregnant women and those with underlying disease are at particular risk of severe illness if they catch it.

The aim of the seasonal influenza vaccination programme is to protect those who are most at risk of serious illness or death should they develop influenza, by offering protection against the most prevalent strains of influenza virus.

The Community Pharmacy Seasonal Influenza Vaccination Advanced Service (Flu Vaccination Service) will support NHS England and NHS Improvement, on behalf of Public Health England in providing an effective vaccination programme in England and it aims:

  1. to sustain and maximise uptake of flu vaccine in at risk groups by continuing to build the capacity of community pharmacies as an alternative to general practice;
  2. to provide more opportunities and improve convenience for eligible patients to access flu vaccinations; and
  3. to reduce variation and provide consistent levels of population coverage of community pharmacy flu vaccination across England by providing a national framework.

Frequently asked questions

Frequently asked questions on the background of the service can be found on the Flu Vaccination FAQs page.

Return to the flu vaccination hub page

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