The Department of Health and Social Care has added new groups of people to the upcoming national flu vaccination programme in order to prepare for a potential second peak of coronavirus infections and reduce pressure on the emergency services this winter.
The additions mean that more than 30 million people will now be able to get free jabs on the NHS this winter, although the government stressed the new group will only get access after vaccinations of those most at-risk have started.
The new group includes people aged 50 to 64, household contacts of those on the shielded patient list and the first year of secondary school.
The PSNC said 50-64-year olds will not get vaccinated “until later in the season".
Alastair Buxton, director of NHS services at PSNC, said: “We previously alerted pharmacy teams to the likely extension of the eligible cohorts for flu vaccination earlier this year and the government’s confirmation of the new groups is welcome news as part of their wider efforts to minimise the impact of winter pressures on the health and care system, amid a global pandemic.”
Mr Buxton said the PSNC is working with NHS England & Improvement to settle the service specification for this year’s pharmacy flu service “as quickly as possible".
“This year the flu season is set to be more challenging due to the need for social distancing and additional infection control measures, but we know that many pharmacy teams have already acted on our advice to consider how they can provide vaccinations in a COVID-safe manner, with the potential to use the flexibilities in the provision of the service which we are seeking in negotiations,” he said.
“These flexibilities include provision of the service outside of the consultation room and off the pharmacy premises and our advice to contractors on planning still stands and we hope to be able to confirm the details for this year’s service shortly.
“If the increased vaccination target is to be achieved, it will require team-working across primary care and it will therefore be more important than ever for pharmacy teams to work collaboratively with GP practices to vaccinate as many people as possible.”