Widening the free flu vaccine

As part of plans to ensure the NHS is prepared for any second coronavirus peak, and to help relieve winter pressures on A&E and emergency care, the flu vaccination will be rolled out to an unprecedented number of people in the months ahead.

Eligibility will be significantly widened to include people aged 50 to 64, who will be invited to have the jab later in flu season.

The free flu vaccine will also be available to people on the shielded patient list and their households, people over the age of 65, pregnant women, those with pre-existing conditions including at risk under 2s, as well as all school year groups up to year 7.

Seasonal flu can be spread by children among themselves and to adults. Flu vaccines were expanded last year to include all primary school aged children for the first time, and this year secondary schools will be visited to vaccinate year 7 pupils.

This will help stop the spread of the seasonal flu as well as protecting any vulnerable adults they may be in contact with.

This expanded vaccination programme will help reduce pressures on the NHS over the winter by preventing flu sickness which can lead to needing to go to hospital and even death.

When vaccines for the most at risk groups are well underway, the Department of Health & Social Care will work alongside clinicians to determine when vaccinations for people aged 50 to 64 will commence. The NHS will be contacting individuals directly with details including where to go to get the vaccine.

This is alongside the £3 billion from Government to the NHS in England to ensure that it can continue providing world-class care throughout the winter months ahead.

The support will enable the National Health Service to continue using the extra hospital capacity acquired from the independent sector as well as maintaining the Nightingale hospitals until the end of March of next year. This is in addition to the £30 billion already announced for health and social care this year.

COVID-19 testing capacity is being increased to 500,000 tests a day by the end of October, ensuring anyone who needs a test is able to get one. Currently, anyone in the UK with symptoms can get a test, with an increasing number of people being tested who have no symptoms at all.

More than 2 billion items of PPE have been delivered to date, with 28 billion items ordered to ensure a continuous supply in the months ahead.

With an attitude of hoping for the best while planning for the worst, we can ensure we are all protected against a second wave of COVID-19, ease winter NHS pressures, and keep people safe.

Henry Smith MP