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Flu vaccination programme moved to October to ‘maximise’ protection

Flu vaccination programme moved to October to ‘maximise’ protection

The flu vaccination programme in England has been moved from September to October this year in order to maximise vaccine effectiveness.

Based on advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), the government has asked GP practices to deliver most flu vaccines from October, with an exact start date to be confirmed by NHS England ‘in due course’.

However, some patient groups should still be vaccinated from 1 September, including pregnant women, children aged 2 or 3, and primary and secondary school aged children.

Last year, a change in timings for the adult flu and Covid vaccination programmes caused confusion among general practices, with the British Medical Association (BMA) demanding an investigation into NHS England’s ‘mismanagement’.

NHSE announced in August that the programmes would start in October, in a departure from the usual September start date, in order to ‘maximise protection’ for patients throughout winter.

But the government then announced that vaccination will begin on 11 September, in what the BMA called a ‘U-turn’ following the identification of a new Covid variant.

This year, the government has said vaccinating eligible groups ‘closer to the time that the flu season commonly starts’ will ‘provide optimal protection’.

The annual flu letter for 2024/25 said: ‘Based on the evidence that flu vaccine’s effectiveness can wane over time in adults JCVI have advised moving the start of the programme for most adults to the beginning of October.’

Given that flu circulation in children ‘normally precedes that in adults’, the JCVI advised the Government to continue with a September start date.

GP practices are ‘expected to deliver a 100% offer’ to these eligible groups, and must ensure they ‘make firm plans to equal or improve uptake rates’ this year, according to the letter.

The government also emphasised that GP practices must use the specific flu vaccines outlined in the letter in order to receive payment and reimbursement.

Flu vaccination eligibility 2024 to 2025

From 1 September 2024:

  • pregnant women
  • all children aged 2 or 3 years on 31 August 2024
  • primary school aged children (from Reception to Year 6)
  • secondary school aged children (from Year 7 to Year 11)
  • all children in clinical risk groups aged from 6 months to less than 18 years

From October 2024, exact start date to be confirmed by NHS England in due course:

  • those aged 65 years and over
  • those aged 18 years to under 65 years in clinical risk groups (as defined by the Green Book, Influenza Chapter 19)
  • 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 including those working for a registered residential care or nursing home, registered domiciliary care providers, voluntary managed hospice providers and those that are employed by those who receive direct payments (personal budgets) or Personal Health budgets, such as Personal Assistants

Source: Department of Health and Social Care

A version of this article was first published by our sister title Pulse

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