Flu vac service: 50-64 year olds will now be included

This afternoon, the Government has announced that everyone aged 50 and over will be among those offered a COVID-19 booster and a flu vaccination this autumn, reversing their previous decision not to include the 50-64 years old cohort within the annual flu vaccination programme.

This development is part of plans to increase protection against respiratory viruses ahead of winter.

The announcement says the 50-64 years old cohort will only be eligible once more vulnerable groups have been offered vaccination, including those aged 65 years and over and those in clinical risk groups. [The Department of Health and Social Care has subsequently announced that contractors will be able to start administering vaccines to 50-64 year olds NOT in a clinical risk group from 15th October 2022. Read more about this announcement.]

NHS England has issued a letter confirming the points in the Government announcement.

Commenting on this Government decision, Alastair Buxton, Director of NHS Services at PSNC, said:

“From a public health perspective, this is a very welcome development. However, many pharmacy contractors originally ordered flu vaccines on the basis that the cohort would be included in the programme, as they had been for the previous two years. They then had to amend these orders when Government decided in March not to include 50-64 year olds in the flu programme.

“The latest volte-face by the Government means contractors need to undertake further work, potentially undoing what they did earlier in the year. This is not the way important public health policy should be handled; we hope lessons will be learnt to improve the quality of the policy development process in the future.

“The delayed start to eligibility for the 50-64 years old cohort will cause confusion and frustration to many patients, which pharmacy teams will inevitably need to manage, adding further pressure to their already challenging workload.

“Pharmacy’s experience of late commencement of the cohort in an earlier year suggests this approach will also reduce the number of people who take up the offer of vaccination. In a year when the Government is concerned about the potential impact of respiratory illness on individuals and the NHS, this delay seems very unwise.”

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