Vaccine programme expanded to protect those most at risk during COVID-19 pandemic.
Social care workers, people over 55 and household members of those who are shielding will all be eligible for the free seasonal flu vaccine. The Scottish Government will look to extend to those aged 50-54, if vaccine supplies allow.
This winter, to protect those most at risk from concurrent infection of COVID-19 and flu, the government is expanding the vaccination programme to new groups and increasing capacity to vaccinate more people than ever before.
Groups who will continue to be eligible for the free flu vaccine include: those aged 65 and over, those with underlying health conditions, pregnant women, children aged between two and five, primary school children, health care workers and young and unpaid carers.
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.
“We want to reassure those who may now feel anxious about leaving home to get vaccinated. Getting the seasonal flu vaccine, especially when you have free eligibility, is one of the ways that you can support the NHS whilst protecting yourself and others this winter.
“If you think you are eligible for the vaccine, please visit NHS Inform, and if you receive a letter inviting you to get a vaccine, please follow the instructions.”
Interim Chief Medical Officer Gregor Smith said:
“Social care workers often come into contact with those most vulnerable to the seasonal flu, and vaccinating them will help to protect them whilst also providing indirect protection to the people they care for.
“Individuals who are shielding have already been identified as being at a high risk from COVID-19, and this risk is heightened should they contract the virus and seasonal flu at the same time.
“Similarly, vaccinating 55-64 year olds - as well as those aged 50-54 if vaccine supplies allow - will help to protect an age group who are vulnerable to both COVID-19 and the seasonal flu, helping to lower the risk of people getting concurrent cases of both viruses.
Karen Hedge, National Director at Scottish Care said:
“Scottish Care welcomes the announcement that social care workers will be able to access free flu jabs. This is something we have been in dialogue with the Scottish Government about for some time, and we consider this move to be a real step forward in recognising the critical role of skilled and valuable care staff, protecting both them and also those they support.”
NHS Scotland Health Boards will be delivering the expansion of the vaccination programme, and will be taking a phased approach. 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.
The first phase will begin in October and will include those who are already eligible, household members of those shielding, and front-line social care workers.
The second phase is planned to begin in December, and will incorporate those aged 55 to 64.
Find out more on the NHS Inform website.