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Scottish flu programme expanded to social workers and over-55s

vaccination age order

GPs in Scotland will this year deliver an expanded flu vaccination programme under the leadership of health boards, the Government has announced.

RCGP Scotland welcomed the ‘all hands on deck’ approach that will mean reduced pressure on practices.

The Scottish Government announced that this year the cohort eligible for a free flu vaccine will be extended to include social care workers, people over 55 and the household members of those who are shielding.

It added that it was ‘increasing capacity to vaccinate more people than ever before’ and that it ‘will look to’ extend the offer to those aged 50-54 ‘if vaccine supplies allow’.

People with underlying health conditions, those aged over 65, pregnant women, children aged between two and five, primary school children, healthcare workers and young and unpaid carers will continue to be eligible, it said.

Announcing the expanded programme, health secretary Jeane Freeman said: ‘The seasonal flu vaccination programme helps to protect the most vulnerable and alleviate pressure on the NHS. This will be more important than ever this year, in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

‘That’s why this flu season, we are extending free eligibility to social care workers who provide direct care, household members of individuals who are shielding, all those aged 55 and over, and those aged 50-54 if vaccine supplies allow.’

The Government added that NHS Scotland health boards will deliver the expansion of the programme with a ‘phased approach’.

This will begin with those already eligible, household members of shielding patients and frontline social care workers from October, with the second phase incorporating those aged 55-64 planned to begin in December.

The Government said: ‘This allows boards to begin vaccination for different groups, as soon as the necessary supply of vaccine becomes available, whilst prioritising those most at risk.’

Chair of RCGP Scotland Dr Carey Lunan said: ‘General practice has a long history of organising and delivering very successful mass vaccination programmes, but this year, with the higher numbers needing vaccinated and the need to ensure physical distancing, we simply cannot do it alone. 

‘The approach announced today will ensure that general practice can continue to play its part in vaccination, however primary responsibility for the service lying with health boards means that we will also be more able to deal with the additional demand that will placed on the service in the months ahead as we continue to deal with the lasting effects of Covid-19, the risk of a second wave, and of course provide everyday non-Covid vital care to our patients.’

She added: ‘The effects of Covid-19 on patients and the health service are likely to last for months to come and as such we are very grateful for the ‘all hands on deck’ approach that has been agreed for the provision of these additional vaccines.’

It comes as both England and Wales have announced their own expanded flu programmes for 2020/21.

A spokesperson for Northern Ireland’s Department of Health told Pulse that this year’s flu vaccination plans are ‘still being finalised and will be announced shortly’.

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