The annual flu vaccination campaign is to return to normal after two years of expanded cohorts, NHS England has confirmed.
In a letter outlining the eligible groups for 2022/23 this week, NHS England said the flu vaccine would be offered ‘in line with pre-pandemic recommendations’.
Those aged 50 to 64 will no longer be eligible for routine vaccination unless they fall into a clinical risk group, with the campaign to focus on the over 65s.
Secondary school pupils will also no longer be eligible for the free flu jab.
Alongside the over-65s and those with high-risk conditions, flu vaccination will be offered to all children aged two to 10 years, pregnant women, people in care homes, carers and close contacts of immunocompromised individuals.
Frontline health and social care workers are also still recommended for vaccination which should be provided by employers, NHS England said.
The cohorts of those eligible for flu vaccination were expanded in 2020/21 and 2021/22 as part of the pandemic response. It meant 35 million people were eligible this year in the biggest ever flu programme.
And in this winter’s campaign, record numbers of people aged 65 and over took up the offer of a flu vaccine in England.
Figures from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA)showed that 81.4% of over-65s came forward for their jab at the same time as GPs were administering a booster campaign at speed.
NHS England’s letter said: ‘The 2020/21 and 2021/22 flu vaccination seasons have been the most ambitious yet, as we sought to offer protection to as many eligible people as possible during the Covid-19 pandemic.
‘This involved increased uptake ambitions for pre-existing cohorts, as well as extension of the vaccination offer to additional cohorts at pace.
‘We would like to extend a huge thank you to all those involved for your hard work during very challenging times which led to some of the best flu vaccine uptake rates ever achieved.’
It added: ‘Seasonal flu vaccination remains an important public health intervention and a key priority for 2022/23 to reduce morbidity, mortality and hospitalisation associated with flu at a time when the NHS and social care will be managing winter pressures, potentially including further outbreaks of Covid-19.’