NHS scraps flu jabs for millions of over-50s and secondary school children

NHS flu jab programme will go back to ‘pre-pandemic’ guidance

<p>Around 10 million people aged over 50 will be affected by the change. </p>

Around 10 million people aged over 50 will be affected by the change.

The NHS will no longer offer free flu vaccines to people aged between 50 and 64 years old or secondary school children in England.

In guidance published on 2 March, the NHS said that the flu jab programme will return to “pre-pandemic recommendations”, meaning only those who are clinically “at risk”, or in certain eligible categories, will get the vaccine.

It comes after the vaccine programme was expanded to offer a record 35 million people the jab during the pandemic.

Those still eligible for the jab include carers, pregnant women, those in long-stay residential care homes, close contacts of immunocompromised people, and those aged 65 years and over.

Frontline health workers are also recommended to get the jab.

All children aged between two and 10 will get the flu vaccine, but secondary school children in years 7 to 11 have now been excluded.

The changes are expected to affect around 10 million people aged over 50 and 4 million secondary school children.

The guidance said: “Seasonal flu vaccination remains an important public health intervention and a key priority for 2022/23 to reduce morbidity, mortality and hospitalisation associated with flu at a time when the NHS and social care will be managing winter pressures, potentially including further outbreaks of Covid-19.”

Nat Mitchell, a pharmacist in Cockermouth, Cumbria, told The Pharmaceutical Journal that the decision to remove people aged between 50 and 64 would “massively affect our service going forward”.

“Forty per cent of our total for this season has been the 50-64 age group,” he said, “so this will have a big effect on our overall service.”

“From past experience I’d estimate that about 20 per cent of those patients would’ve previously had [a vaccination] privately. A few more may choose to have a private jab this autumn after being introduced to flu jabs during the pandemic, but nothing like the numbers we have administered on the NHS service.”

Mr Mitchell added that the late announcement could leave his pharmacy “severely out of pocket”, because they ordered flu jabs to cover the original cohort.

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-fifties were being told they should get the jab, now the advice has changed, but no one is explaining why. It’s going to cause so much confusion.”

One source working with the rollout told the paper that there were concerns the changes could be financially driven.

“Given that the next pandemic might be caused by the influenza virus it seems extremely reckless to cut the flu vaccine programme,” he said.

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