UK will need largest flu immunisation in history this winter, NHS England boss warns

Kate Devlin
Whitehall Editor
Sunday 05 July 2020 11:31 BST
UK will need largest flu immunisation in history this winter, says NHS chief

The largest flu immunisation programme Britain has ever seen will have to be carried out this winter, the boss of NHS England has warned.

As the health service prepares for a possible second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, doctor’s leaders have warned the health service will struggle if high numbers of Covid-19 cases coincide with a bad flu season.

Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Sir Simon Stevens said the NHS was preparing for the virus to rebound this winter, adding: “I think we’re going to need the biggest ever flu immunisation season we’ve ever had.”

At the moment older people, nursery school children and those suffering from conditions such as asthma are already given the jab for free on the NHS.

Other companies, such as high street chemist Boots, offer the vaccine for a charge.

Groups like the Royal College of Physicians as well as Labour leader Keir Starmer have already called for all over 50s to get an NHS flu jab this year.

Earlier this year Sage, the scientific group which advises the government on Covid-19, recommended everyone be immunised, but it is thought that was considered too difficult.

Last week Downing Street announced that eligibility for an NHS flu injection would be expanded as ministers try to protect the health service. 

But it is not clear who will be included.  

The government has already ordered extra stockpiles of the vaccine in preparation. 

Ministers also want to ensure that more people in groups already classed as “at risk” receive a jab this year. 

The largest ever flu vaccination programme the UK has ever seen could be a massive undertaking.  

Even vaccinating all over 50s in the UK would require an estimated extra 10 million doses. 

Sir Simon also warned that a “very rigorous NHS testing and tracing service” had to be available by the winter, to warn hospitals in advance of local surges in their areas.


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