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Government extends free flu jab eligibility to secondary school children

The government has updated its annual flu letter to include secondary school-aged children in its free vaccination programme.

Children in school years seven to 11 will be offered free flu vaccines when they become available later this year, according to an amendment to the annual flu letter published today (July 3).

The amendment said that providers should “commence vaccinations as early as possible” after the vaccine becomes available – with the next flu season due to start from September 1 - and complete them by December 15 “in line with the other school-aged cohorts”.

Read more: Pharmacists told to diversify vax stocks as excess flu deaths hit five-year peak

On May 25, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), NHS England (NHSE) and the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) issued their annual flu letter setting out next winter’s vaccination plans including which cohorts will be eligible for the free jabs.

The letter set out that 50-64-year-olds will no longer be eligible for free vaccinations in the 2023/24 season and that the government was considering expanding the programme to include secondary school aged children in years seven to 11.


Eligible cohorts


The groups now eligible for free flu vaccinations in 2023/24 are:

  • Those aged 65 years and over
  • Those aged six months to under 65 years in clinical risk groups 
  • Pregnant women
  • All children aged two or three years on August 31 2023
  • Primary school aged children 
  • Secondary school-aged children in years seven, eight, nine, 10 and 11 (including home-schooled and other children not in mainstream education)
  • Those in long-stay residential care homes
  • Carers in receipt of carer’s allowance, or those who are the main carer of an elderly or disabled person
  • Close contacts of immunocompromised individuals
  • Frontline workers in a social care setting without an employer led occupational health scheme 

Read more: Government scraps free flu jabs for 50-64-year-olds in 2023/24 season

All frontline health care workers, including both clinical and non-clinical staff who have contact with patients, should be also offered a flu vaccine as part of the organisations’ policy, the government said in May.

However, it confirmed at the time that vaccination of frontline healthcare staff except those in certain social care settings “will not be reimbursed and does not qualify for a payment”.

It remains unclear how much pharmacists will be paid for delivery to other cohorts.


Flu warnings


The expansion comes after the government again warned that pharmacies and other NHS contractors should buy their flu vaccine stock from more than one manufacturer "to mitigate against the risk of supply issues" last month (June 22).

Read more: Well Pharmacy launches private flu jab bookings early at £17.99

And UKHSA’s annual flu report for 2022/23, published on June 22, revealed that the UK had suffered 14,500 excess deaths associated with influenza infections in 2022/23 – the highest figure in five years.

Earlier in June, Well Pharmacy launched bookings for its flu vaccination service, opening “earlier than usual” to give people “the best chance to prepare for flu season”.

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