It follows the news earlier this year (August 14) that the 2020/21 flu vaccination programme in Wales would be extended to cover additional groups, including patients over the age of 50, adult residents in Welsh prisons and household contacts of those on the NHS shielded patient list.
At the time, the Welsh government said fu jab eligibility would be extended to those in the 50-64 cohort “subject to availability” of additional vaccine stock expected to become available in November and December.
The government said last week (November 25) that it has now secured nearly 460,000 additional vaccines for 2020/21, which are currently being made available to GP practices and community pharmacies in Wales.
The announcement comes after negotiations between Community Pharmacy Wales (CPW) and the Welsh government, which secured an uplift of £1.75 per vaccination to reflect the additional workload associated with offering the service during the COVID-19 pandemic. CPW shared on September 16 that community pharmacies in Wales would be paid a total of £11.83 per flu jab during the 2020-21 season.
A CPW spokesperson told C+D last week (November 25) that it “welcomes the clarity around vaccinating a new age cohort in Wales”. “This additional age group is a clear addition to the largest ever flu vaccination programme in Wales and take up of the vaccine is already extremely high,” they added.
“Protect the most vulnerable of our community”
Patients in the 50-64 age group “should now expect to be contacted by their GP practice” about the flu jab and can also contact their local pharmacy to arrange a vaccination, according to the government statement.
Over 750,000 vulnerable people, NHS staff and schoolchildren had already been vaccinated in Wales by mid-November, the government said. Around 70% of those aged 65 and over have also been vaccinated, which is “substantially higher” than during the same period last year, it added.
Welsh minister for health and social services, Vaughan Gething, said: “This winter, more and more people in Wales are taking up the offer of a free flu vaccine. We have made great progress to protect the most vulnerable of our community and a further 460,000 people in Wales will now be able to benefit from the protection the vaccine offers them and our NHS services.
“Extending the flu vaccine to everyone aged 50 or over will help prevent more people becoming ill and reduce pressure on the NHS this winter. I would urge anyone who is eligible to follow the example of the huge numbers of people vaccinated already and have the vaccine,” he added.
Commenting on the news, chief medical officer for Wales Frank Atherton said: “Everyone who is eligible for an NHS flu vaccine can be confident about having it to protect themselves and those around them this winter. Rolling out the vaccine to all over 50s will protect them and others in our communities in every part of Wales and help protect the NHS this winter.”
The announcement for Wales comes after the Department of Health and Social Care announced earlier last month (November 20) that patients in the 50-64 age group in England would be eligible for free flu vaccines from December 1.