Flu jabs to be rolled out to over-50s from start of December

The flu vaccination programme will be rolled out to the over-50s from December 1 in the next phase of the Government’s expanded immunisation programme, it was announced on Friday.

Ministers have promised "the biggest flu vaccination programme in history", with 30 million people now eligible for the jab. Healthy adults aged 50 to 64 can receive the vaccine from their GP or local pharmacy alongside pensioners, those with underlying health conditions and young children.

Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, said: "This winter is like no other, and we have to worry about the twin threats of flu and Covid-19.

"Covid means getting a flu jab is more important than ever this year, so we are delivering the largest ever flu vaccination programme. Free vaccinations for 50 to 64-year-olds will now be available from GPs and pharmacies, starting from December 1."

Health groups have been calling for the flu vaccination scheme to be expanded, claiming the NHS could be hit by a "double whammy" of influenza and Covid this winter unless more people are protected, but it was unclear whether the Government would be able to source the millions of extra jabs needed to offer the vaccine to over-50s. 

Covid-19 v flu symptoms

The Department of Health said GPs, trusts and pharmacists can now order additional stock from the centrally secured Government supply of more than seven million vaccines to vaccinate this new group.

Professor Jonathan Van Tam, the deputy chief medical officer for England, said: "Influenza vaccination is a critical tool this and every winter to prevent severe illnesses and potential hospitalisations for thousands of people. I urge all those who are eligible for the flu vaccine, including the new group of 50 to 64-year-olds, to book their appointments as soon as they can."

The Department of Health said the roll-out of the flu vaccine to over-50s is separate to any future Covid-19 vaccine roll-out and people will be able to receive the flu and Covid-19 jabs in parallel.

Flu vaccine uptake is higher in all vulnerable groups, except pregnant women, compared to this time last year. 

Provisional data published by PHE on suggested 72.9 per cent of those aged 65 and over, 45 per cent of two-year-olds and 46.8 per cent of three-year-olds have had their vaccine.

Public health minister Jo Churchill said: "To prepare for this challenging winter, we committed to protect as many people as possible from the flu, to keep those at risk safe and reduce the strain on our NHS. 

"More vaccine is flowing into GPs and pharmacies throughout the next few months, and I would urge anyone eligible for their flu vaccine to get one, including all health and social care workers."

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