The NHS will roll out its biggest flu vaccine programme in history this winter, the Health Secretary will announce today.
Over 35 million people in the country will be able to access free jabs – up from 19 million vaccines administered last winter.
Sajid Javid will announce that from September, providers will also offer the vaccine to all secondary school students up to Year 11 for the first time during the upcoming winter season.
Last year, four in five (80.9%) people aged 65 and over in England received their flu vaccine – exceeding the World Health Organisation uptake ambition of 75%.
The government is preparing the flu vaccine rollout alongside a booster programme for Covid-19 vaccines.
During the 2021/22 season, which starts in September, the flu jab will be available to:
All children aged two and three on August 31, 2021
All children in primary school and all children in school Years 7 to 11 in secondary school
Those aged six months to under 50 years in clinical risk groups
Those aged 50 years and over
Close contacts of immunocompromised individuals
Frontline health and adult social care staff
Eligible groups are urged to get their free vaccine every year to protect themselves and the most vulnerable people in society.
The childhood flu programme aims to protect children and contain the spread of the virus to babies and vulnerable adults they may be in contact with.
The nasal spray vaccine is offered to two and three-year-olds and children in primary school and Year 7 and, for the first time this year, secondary school-aged children up to Year 11.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Flu can be a serious illness and we want to build a wall of protection by immunising a record number of people.
“With the nation getting closer to normal life, we must learn to live with Covid-19 alongside other viruses and we’re offering the free flu jab to millions more people to help keep them safe this winter.
“The phenomenal scale of the COVID-19 vaccination programme is a clear demonstration of the positive impact vaccination can make and I encourage all those eligible to get their flu jab when called forward.”
During the past year, flu levels were lower than expected across the world due to measures put in place to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, such as enhanced hygiene, social distancing and face masks.
With restrictions easing, however, it is possible there will be higher levels of flu this winter.
The government is also preparing for a booster programme of Covid-19 jabs and the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has published interim advice on who would be prioritised for a possible third vaccine from September.
Dr Yvonne Doyle, Medical Director at Public Health England, said: “The flu vaccine is safe, effective and protects millions of people each year from what can be a devastating illness.
“Last winter, flu activity was extremely low, but this is no reason for complacency as it means less people have built up a defence against the virus. Combined with the likelihood that Covid-19 will still be circulating, this makes the coming flu season highly unpredictable.
“We will be preparing for a challenging winter by expanding our world-leading flu vaccination programme to over 35 million people, saving more lives and limiting the impact on the NHS and social care.”
Dr Nikita Kanani, NHS medical director for primary care, said: “NHS staff across England vaccinated record numbers of people against flu last year – a potentially fatal illness – and they continue to pull out all the stops to deliver the biggest and most successful NHS Covid-19 vaccination programme in health history, protecting their patients and communities.
“Getting your free flu vaccine if you are eligible as well as keeping up good habits like regularly washing your hands could help save your life, so please do come forward when you are invited to give you and your loved ones vital protection this winter.”