Health chiefs have today united to urge people aged 65 and over to take advantage of the NHS’s biggest ever flu vaccination programme.
Older people across the country are being offered the most effective vaccine in the world as part of the programme which is providing a record 8.5 million doses, free of charge.
And this week sees the launch of a campaign to promote flu vaccines to the over 65s, as part of the annual campaign to encourage the public to stay well before the winter period.
All vaccines have now been delivered to those surgeries and pharmacists who placed an order on time and the NHS is reassuring the public that there is sufficient supply of the vaccine in stock for everyone to get protected ahead of winter.
NHS England is also providing vaccines for other at-risk groups such as pregnant women and people with long terms conditions, as well as for NHS and care staff. There is also a nasal spray, which works better in younger people, and is free of charge for children.
Seqirus, the sole supplier of the new, more effective vaccine for over 65s, have phased deliveries to cope with global demand.
As the NHS continues to work with GPs to ensure the vaccine gets to where it is needed, Seqirus confirmed it has now despatched the final supplies for England.
Professor Jane Cummings, Chief Nursing Officer for England said: “This is the biggest flu vaccination programme we have ever undertaken offering more people than ever the greatest opportunity to help protect themselves.
“This year three types of vaccine are being used, including the Adjuvanted trivalent flu vaccine, or aTIV, which should give better protection to people aged 65 and over.
“Deliveries of aITV have been going on since September and with all vaccines now despatched to GPs and pharmacies, we are urging those who have not yet had their flu jab to get it as soon as possible.”
Professor Cummings added: “Around 8.5 million doses of vaccine have been ordered, with around one million surplus doses available. The current uptake rate in those aged 65 or over is 45.2% so we are keen to see an increase in that figure.
“As well as older adults, and those with long term conditions, we want other at-risk groups such as pregnant women and young children to be protected as well. It’s certainly not too late for people to get vaccinated.”
GPs and pharmacies have been setting up special vaccination clinics. There are also local helplines for GPs and pharmacies if they have any problems so they are able to ensure all patients have the appropriate advice and information about their flu jab.
Professor Dame Sally Davies, the Chief Medical Officer for England, said: “Flu can kill and the vaccine is the single best way to protect yourself and those around you. More vaccines than ever before are now available and I strongly encourage everyone in a vulnerable group to contact their GP or pharmacy and get the jab.”
Public Health England Director Professor Paul Cosford said: “Flu can be extremely serious and can kill the most vulnerable. Vaccination is by far the best defence we have.
“Anyone at increased risk from the effects of flu is offered the vaccine for free, this includes people aged 65 and over, pregnant women, those with underlying health conditions and children aged 2-9. Speak to a GP or pharmacist – or look out for an invitation from your child’s school – to get yourself or your loved ones protected this winter.”