Individuals between the ages of 50 and 64 will be eligible to receive free flu shots in an effort to tackle twin threats of flu and Covid-19 during the winter season. The expanded winter vaccine scheme brings in an additional category of people who can be eligible for the flu vaccine in England.
According to a BBC report, about thirty million people are being offered the vaccine as part of England's largest flu immunisation programme which prioritised those over 65, NHS and social care workers.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock emphasised on the threat of flu and Covid-19, as he stressed on the importance of getting flu shots at this time more than ever.
A major flu season amid a coronavirus pandemic could render hospitals extremely understaffed should many NHS and care-home staff end up sick with flu. A double infection could be even more deadly for infected patients.
The flu virus in itself - which is very common and highly infectious, is particularly deadly for older adults, young children and those with underlying health issues and weakened immune systems.
Beginning 1st of December, persons over 50 will be able to avail of the free flu vaccine.
The Department of Health said GPs, NHS trusts and pharmacists will have access to additional orders of the flu vaccine from a centrally-secured government supply to accommodate the expanded age group. Furthermore, they assured that the NHS is well-equipped to offer both the flu vaccine and any future Covid-19 vaccines, adding that people would be able to receive these two vaccinations "in parallel."
England's deputy chief medical officer, Prof Jonathan Van-Tam has called on those eligible for the flu vaccine to book their appointments at the soonest possible time.
"Influenza vaccination is a critical tool, this and every winter, to prevent severe illnesses and potential hospitalisations for thousands of people," Van-Tam said.
To date, other groups of people eligible for a free flu vaccine in England are:
- Those aged 65 or over
- Pregnant women
- People with some medical conditions, including diabetes, heart failure and asthma
- NHS and social care workers
- All children up to Year 7
- People who were required to shield from coronavirus - and anyone they live with
Meanwhile, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales are running separate flu vaccination campaigns.