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October start date for over-65s national flu jab programme

NHS & health news

October start date for over-65s national flu jab programme

The 2024-24 national flu vaccination campaign in England is expected to start for over-65s at “the beginning of October,” the Department of Health and Social Care has announced. 

In the 2024-25 flu immunisation programme letter, released earlier today (Tuesday March 12), the DHSC and UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said the decision to move the campaign to October “for most adults” was based on advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.

“Based on the evidence that flu vaccine’s effectiveness can wane over time in adults, JCVI has advised moving the start of the programme for most adults to the beginning of October,” said the letter.

“This is on the understanding that the majority of the vaccinations will be completed by the end of November, closer to the time that the flu season commonly starts,” it continued, explaining that the peak in flu circulation rates is typically seen in December or January. 

In addition to over-65s (adults over 50 will not be eligible for free flu jabs), groups for whom the campaign will begin from October will include adults aged 18-65 in clinical risk groups, care home residents, carers of elderly and disabled people and frontline workers in a social care setting where there is no employer-led occupational health scheme.

“All frontline health care workers, including both clinical and non-clinical staff who have contact with patients, should be offered flu vaccine from October (exact start date to be confirmed in due course) as a vital part of the organisations’ policy for the prevention of the transmission of flu,” said the DHSC, although it confirmed that vaccinations for non-social care frontline workers will not be reimbursed.

Because influenza usually circulates earlier among children, it was “agreed that the children’s programme should continue to start in September as early as delivery and supply allows”. 

Vaccinations for pregnant women will also start from September to protect themselves and their children, as flu infection increases the risk of premature birth and stillbirth. 

There may be other groups for whom earlier vaccination is recommended, said the DHSC, citing those about to start chemotherapy as an example. 

GPs should “use clinical judgment to bring forward vaccination in exceptional circumstances, as outlined in the Green Book, and offer vaccination as soon as vaccine comes available in line with contractual arrangements,” said the Government.  

The JCVI has recommended the same vaccines for reimbursement as it did last year, said the DHSC, adding: “As in previous seasons, ordering controls will be in place for live attenuated influenza vaccine [recommended for children aged 2-18] in 2024 to 2025 to enable UKHSA to balance vaccine availability and demand appropriately across the programme.”

“The GP and Community Pharmacy service specifications will be updated and published in due course following usual engagement with relevant representative bodies,” said the DHSC, adding that further guidance will follow “on how the flu programme should be aligned to any autumn Covid-19 vaccination programme”.

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