The NHS is set to scrap free flu jabs for the over 50s and children next winter in England as the NHS goes back to pre-Covid rules. Flu jabs were extended to secondary school children and all people aged 50 to 64 this winter following fears of a major outbreak post lockdown.
New guidance issued on the NHS England website, this week says eligibility will be narrowed again in 2022/23 as England emerges from Covid. According to Covid data England has nearly 6million people aged 50 to 64 who are not also in an at-risk group who were also offered free jabs in 2020/21.
The letter told NHS workers and pharmacies: “We would like to extend a huge thank you to all those involved for your hard work during very challenging times which led to some of the best flu vaccine uptake rates ever achieved.”
But it is feared the change in guidance could cause confusion, the chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies, Dr Leyla Hannbeck, 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-50s were being told they should get their jab, now the advice has changed, but no one is explaining why. It’s going to cause so much confusion,” she added.
The decision to withdraw the free flu jab als appears to go against the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI). According to a source the“JCVI remained supportive of fully extending the childhood programme on a routine basis which is highly cost effective”.
They added it would be “acceptable to vaccinate 50-64 year olds for the 2022/23 season if funding available”.
People eligible for the flu jab in in 2022/23 :
Those aged 65 and over
Children (over six months) and adults (under 65) in clinical risk groups
All children aged two to 10 on 31 August 2022
Care home residents
Close contacts of immunocompromised people
Frontline health and social care workers (through employers).
Flu vaccination has been recommended for staff and vulnerable groups in the UK since the late 1960s. More than 11,000 people died per year with flu on average between 2015 to 2020
In 2019/20, 86% of deaths by flu were of people over the age of 65.