On Thursday July 2, Downing Street confirmed work was underway to secure ‘significant additional supply’ of flu jabs. The hope is to ease pressure off the NHS in case its services are tightly stretched in the winter.
People currently eligible for a free flu jab on the NHS include the over 65s, pregnant women, primary school children and those with severe asthma and heart disease.
The Telegraph reported that ministers have discussed the possibility of extending the eligibility criteria to include those aged between 50 and 65.
To support this notion, ministers may purchase an additional 10 million doses of the flu jab to cover the new age bracket.
Politicians are considering this deal as they fear a resurgence of coronavirus may coincide with the annual seasonal outbreak of flu, putting excess strain on the NHS.
To avert hospital staff from feeling overwhelmed, the Government’s scientific advisors have suggested vaccinating the entire nation against flu.
However, Whitehall sources have mentioned that securing enough doses of the vaccine to cover everybody in time for winter isn’t realistic.
Extending the flu vaccine to those aged 50 and above is in line with recommendations with the Royal College of Physicians.
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Speaking to reporters on Thursday, the Prime Minister’s official spokesperson said: “We want to make sure we protect as many people as possible.
“As part of that planning, the Government has been working to secure a significant additional supply of vaccines.
“We will use these vaccines to increase uptake in existing at-risk groups as a priority.
“We also intend to expand the groups of people that are eligible and we will be setting out more details shortly.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the government “owed it to the NHS” to ramp up its vaccination programme.
Sir Starmer praised the NHS for “an incredible job” in handling the coronavirus crisis and said: “We owe it to them to ensure that we take the preventive steps going into this winter.”
He continued: “We’re calling for vaccination for all those over 50. It will be the perfect storm this winter if we had an outbreak of influenza at the same time as the possibility of a second spike in COVID-19 [coronavirus] because the symptoms are very similar.”
The symptoms of the flu
The NHS states that flu symptoms come on very quickly and can include the following:
- A sudden fever
- An aching body
- A dry cough
- Sore throat
- Loss of appetite
- Feeling nauseous or being sick
- Difficulty sleeping
- Diarrhoea or tummy pain
For those currently eligible for the flu vaccine, it’s offered at GP surgeries and some local pharmacies.
The date is unknown as to when the flu vaccine will become available for those aged 50 and above.
At the moment, discussions suggest it would be favourable for the vaccine to become available to an extended group of people by this winter.
Symptoms of coronavirus
The three main symptoms of coronavirus include a new, continuous cough, a high temperature and a loss of sense of taste or smell.
Sky News reported that around 25 million people are normally vaccinated for flu every winter.
Those currently able to get the flu vaccination can do so as they’re at a higher risk of developing complications of the flu, such as pneumonia.
At present, the NHS states the “flu vaccine is the best protection we have against an unpredictable virus that can cause unpleasant illness”.
The health body added: “Studies have shown that the flu vaccine will help prevent you getting the flu.”