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UPDATED 10/9/2020: Influenza immunisation season 2020-2021- important, please read

UPDATED: You can listen to our podcast on this topic here:

And then listen to our latest update on 10 September here:

What are the changes to the flu immunisation programme this year?

There has been a lot of press coverage about the proposed changes to the 2020-2021 influenza immunisation season and this has been causing a lot of anxiety.

At the time of writing, there has been no official guidance on the proposed changes to the NHS regulations regarding who is eligible for a free NHS flu immunisation. If you are not eligible for a free NHS flu immunisation, you are able to purchase one which is given to you at a local pharmacy.

The groups eligible, at the time of writing, are:

  • anyone 65 years or over   
  • anyone who is pregnant 
  • anyone who has certain medical conditions 
  • anyone living in a long-stay residential care home or another long-stay care facility 
  • anyone receiving a carer’s allowance, or anyone who is the main carer for an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if you fall ill 

The flu immunisation for children is free on the NHS for:

  • children over the age of 6 months with a long-term health condition
  • children aged 2 and 3 years (on 31 August 2020)
  • children in primary school

The proposals are likely to include three further cohorts for this year’s flu immunisation prorgamme:

  • anyone aged between 50 and 64 years
  • anyone living in a shielded household
  • children up to year 7

Okay, so when are you going to start immunising patients this year?

GP practices in the UK begin their annual immunisations programmes in September each year and these run through to March the following year. Practices order their immunisation supplies many months ahead- at Penny’s Hill Practice, our orders for this year’s influenza immunisations was placed with the pharmaceutical companies before COVID-19.

We have started our clinics and we plan to run our flu immunisation clinics as we normally do, starting in September and, with our catch up clinics running until March 2021.

Great. Can I book an appointment for September or October?

We are now able to book an appointment for you to have your free NHS flu immunisation at the surgery if you are aged 65 or over. Please contact the reception teams to arrange this.

If you are under 65 years of age, we are not able to book appointments for you to have your flu immunisation at this time. We will make sure that when appointments are available to be booked we will make you aware via our normal pathways.

Please ensure you are subscribed to our mailing list to receive this information (scroll down to the bottom of this page and enter your email address in the box marked “Subscribe to Practice News”).

The reason for this is that we have now had our guaranteed delivery date of immunisations for the over 65 age group but are still waiting for the guaranteed delivery date for those under 65- these are 2 different flu immunisations.

Please note, at the time of writing, the Department of Health and Social Care, DHSC, has said that shielded patients and their households as well as those aged over 50 will be eligible for the free immunisation “as part of a staggered delivery later in the season” and that they will be advising when to invite those aged between 50 and 64 to take part in the programme “once vaccination of the more ‘at-risk’ groups is well underway”. Whilst we have been given no other information than this, it appears that the UK Government is asking that if you are in the 50-64 year group, that you allow other groups who are more at risk of either contracting or suffering from the effects of influenza to have their immunisations first.

How are you making sure it’s safe for us to come to have a jab during Coronavirus?

This year, due to social distancing measures, our flu clinics will be run differently. In keeping with NHS England’s advice, our clinics will be run in much smaller numbers than normal, with strict appointment times to avoid unnecessary queuing or excessive groups of people waiting, to minimise waiting times, and to maintain social distancing and infection control measures during the clinics.

You will be given more information regarding the changes to our clinics when you have received your appointment time.

Do I need to bring anything with me to my appointment?

Yes, please remember to bring your face-covering when you attend.

Does the influenza immunisation prevent me catching coronavirus?

No, there is no current evidence that the influenza immunisation will protect you from coronavirus.

However, many people who are vulnerable to flu are also more vulnerable to Coronavirus. Although the flu immunisation does not protect you against Coronavirus, we want to help protect those people who are most at risk of flu and also protect the health of those who are vulnerable to hospitalisation and death from Coronavirus by ensuring you do not get flu.

Does the influenza immunisation give me flu?

No, the influenza immunisation does not contain a live flu virus that is capable of giving you flu. Whilst you may suffer with side-effects from the immunisation itself, you cannot get flu from the immunisation.

I have heard there will be global shortages of flu immunisations this year as every country increases the number they give. Is this true?

There have been reports that there may be global shortages due to an increased uptake of flu immunisation this year. We have not been advised by the UK Government, NHS England, DHSC or our suppliers that they are expecting stock issues with our immunisation supply however we have been advised that the UK Governement has secured extra supplies to try and prevent a shortage of immunisations for those who would like one.

I am not eligible for a free NHS flu immunisation but I don’t want to pay for one. Please can you make up a reason for me to have one for free?

Unfortunately, because the immunisations are fundede by the NHS, we are unable to administer free NHS flu immunisations to people who are ineligible. People who are not eligible are able to purchase an immunisation from their local pharmacy. Please note, this immunisation may not be the same brand that we are using in the surgery.

Immunisations make you ill/don’t work/overload your immune system/contain harmful chemicals/are used for population control/will kill you/are a hoax. You can’t make me have one.

We would never force anyone to have an immunisation they do not want. There has never been an obligation to have the flu immuisation and whether or not you are eligible for a free NHS flu immunisation or not, you are under no obligation to have one. If you are in an eligible group and you do not want one, please let us know so we can code this in your records- we only do this so that the computer system does not keep sending you reminders throughout the flu season inviting you to have an immunisation. You will need to let us know each year.

24 July 2020 (latest update 10 September 2020)