Millions of children in England will be offered a flu vaccine from September, as the NHS steps up its life-saving vaccination programme to protect the country against deadly viruses ahead of winter.
School aged children will be able to get the flu vaccine at school or at community clinics, and those with long term health conditions can also get the vaccine at GP surgeries. Children aged two and three years will be able to get an appointment with their GP practice.
The NHS winter flu and covid-19 vaccination programme provides vital protection to those eligible and their families over winter, keeping people from developing serious illnesses, and helping to minimise hospitalisations during busy winter months.
The NHS will start by prioritising flu vaccinations for children, to prevent children from getting seriously ill from flu and ending up hospital, and to break the chain of transmission of the virus to the wider population.
This year, based on the latest scientific evidence, the JCVI has recommended adults over the age of 65 and those with underlying health conditions will be eligible for a flu and covid-19 vaccination, with the offer starting from early October, to maximise protection for patients right across the winter months.
The flu season typically peaks in January so vaccinating adults in October will mean those at greatest risk will be better protected in the coldest months when viruses circulate more as people gather indoors.
If people have already booked an appointment for their flu vaccination earlier with their local provider, these appointments can go ahead.
Starting adult flu and covid-19 vaccinations at the same time will also make it easier for more people to choose to get both life-saving vaccines in the same visit, which is a more convenient way for people to get vital protection from both viruses ahead of winter.
The NHS has ensured there is enough capacity to allow all those eligible for a flu and covid vaccine to get their vaccines by mid-December, in line with latest guidance.
Residents of older adult care homes will be the first to start receiving their flu and covid-19 vaccinations on 2 October, with the public able to book appointments the following week.
Professor Sir Stephen Powis, NHS England Medical Director, said: “Vaccinations are our best defence against flu and covid-19 ahead of what could be a very challenging winter.
“As it always does, the NHS will help protect people against these nasty viruses, first offering protection to children to help stop the spread of flu, then offering eligible adults both vaccines to ensure maximum protection.
“The NHS will work quickly to ensure all those eligible are offered these lifesaving vaccinations ahead of the winter months and you will be invited when it’s your turn, so please come forward to get your protection against both covid and flu when invited – it will help protect you and those around you.”
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Thomas Waite said: “I’d encourage all eligible people to come forward for their flu and Covid jabs as soon as they’re offered them. They can be lifesaving.
“Administering vaccines to children in September and adults in October will protect people throughout the winter months. Healthcare workers continue to go above and beyond to deliver the flu and Covid vaccination programme and I’d like to thank everyone who has and will support its rollout.”
Dr Mary Ramsay, Director of Public Health Programmes at UKHSA: “We know that flu and covid usually hit hardest in December and January – so it’s vital those at greatest risk of getting seriously ill get the best possible protection from the vaccines over this period. That is why it’s important you come forward when the NHS calls so you’ve got good defences against both viruses when winter hits.”
Dr Alex Degan, a GP and NHS vaccination lead in Devon, said: “By making it easier for more people to choose to get their winter vaccines at the same time, the NHS is making it simpler and more convenient for those who need protection to get it.
“This will be especially good news for people who live in rural areas, who may have to travel further for an appointment.”
Last year, the NHS carried out its second biggest ever flu vaccination campaign, with more than 21 million flu vaccinations given to adults and children, while more than 17 million covid-19 jabs were delivered last winter. As part of this, 10 million flu vaccinations and 8 million covid-19 vaccinations were in the month of October, making it by far the most popular month.
In total, more than 149 million covid-19 vaccinations have now been given by healthcare staff and volunteers since the NHS delivered the world’s first covid-19 jab outside of clinical trials to Maggie Keenan, in December 2020.
But it is important that those eligible this year come forward for their vaccinations as protection fades over time, and the virus that causes flu can change from year to year.
As in previous years, the NHS will let people know when bookings open. Adult flu and covid-19 appointments will be available through the NHS App and website, or by calling 119 for those who can’t get online. Flu vaccines will also be available through local GP practices and pharmacies.
The nasal flu vaccine is the most effective vaccine for children aged 2-17 years but if this is not suitable the GP or practice nurse may be able to offer a flu vaccine injection as an alternative.
In line with advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, those eligible for a flu vaccine this year include:
- those aged 65 years and over
- those aged 6 months to under 65 years in clinical risk groups (as defined by the Green Book, chapter 19 (Influenza))
- pregnant women
- all children aged 2 or 3 years on 31 August 2023
- school-aged children (from Reception to Year 11)
- those in long-stay residential care homes
- carers in receipt of carer’s allowance, or those who are the main carer of an elderly or disabled person
- close contacts of immunocompromised individuals
- frontline workers in a social care setting without an employer led occupational health scheme including those working for a registered residential care or nursing home, registered domiciliary care providers, voluntary managed hospice providers and those that are employed by those who receive direct payments (personal budgets) or Personal Health budgets, such as Personal Assistants
Those eligible for an autumn Covid booster are:
- residents in a care home for older adults
- all adults aged 65 years and over
- persons aged 6 months to 64 years in a clinical risk group, as laid out in the Immunisation Green Book, COVID-19 chapter (Green Book)
- frontline health and social care workers
- persons aged 12 to 64 years who are household contacts (as defined in the Green Book) of people with immunosuppression
- persons aged 16 to 64 years who are carers (as defined in the Green Book) and staff working in care homes for older adults.