MORE than 35 million Britons will be offered a flu shot this winter amid fears of a resurgence of the deadly virus.
The free vaccination program should be extended to all people over 50 and high school students up to grade 11 in an effort to tackle a possible wave of infections.
It comes as the NHS seeks to prevent a big wave of flu coinciding with its battle with Covid, which experts say could rise again during the colder months.
Influenza vaccines will be available from September for children aged two and three, on August 31, all primary school children, those aged 50 and over, pregnant women, unpaid caregivers and front-line adult health and social care workers.
The expanded influenza campaign will build on last year’s expanded influenza program, said the Department of Health and Welfare, which saw a record 19 million vaccines administered.
Experts have warned the UK has low levels of flu immunity due to lockdown and social distancing measures.
Flu cases were 95% below normal last year, which could trigger a bumper winter flu season, according to estimates from the Royal College of General Practitioners.
Seasonal flu typically kills around 7,000 people a year – although officials fear it could increase this year amid declining immunity.
The government is also seeking to prevent the flu from undermining the resources of the health service in its fight against Covid.
The NHS is planning a major double vaccination campaign, where the most vulnerable people will receive a flu and Covid vaccine at the same time. This will be people’s third “call back” Covid shot.
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Ministers are expected to decide in the coming weeks whether a third Covid vaccine will be needed for the most vulnerable in September.
The announcement follows the release of a report last week that urged the NHS to prepare now to avoid a “worst case” of 60,000 deaths from the flu.
Grim report from Academy of Medical Sciences (AMS) warns of ‘triple whammy’ from Covid, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) – which people typically get when they are two years.
He then estimates that between 15,000 and 60,000 people could die of the flu this winter, according to the modeling, against a typical year of 10,000 to 30,000 in England.
Urging people to take the vaccine, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “The flu can be a serious illness and we want to build a wall of protection by immunizing a record number of people.
“As the nation moves closer to normal life, we must learn to live with Covid-19 alongside other viruses and we are offering the free flu vaccine to millions more to help them stay safe. this winter. “
Dr Yvonne Doyle, medical director of Public Health England, urged Britons to get vaccinated as she warned of a ‘harsh winter’.
She said: “Last winter influenza activity was extremely low, but that’s no reason for complacency as it means fewer people have built a defense against the virus.
“Combined with the likelihood of Covid-19 continuing to circulate, this makes the next flu season very unpredictable. “
ARE YOU ELIGIBLE FOR FLU JAB?
The jab will be available for free for:
- All children aged two and three as of August 31, 2021
- All children in primary and all children in school Grades 7 to 11 of secondary
- People aged six months to less than 50 years in clinical risk groups
- Pregnant women
- People aged 50 and over
- Unpaid caregivers
- Close contact with immunocompromised people
- Front-line health and social care workers for adults