Improved flu vaccine will be available this winter for those aged 65 and over

Old man gets a flu shot

Public Health England (PHE) has announced a roll out of a more effective flu vaccine for those aged 65 and over this winter

It says new vaccine has the potential to significantly reduce the burden on the NHS.

It could reduce GP consultations by 30,000, hospitalisations by over 2,000 and prevent over 700 hospital deaths from flu in England, alleviating some of the health burden that seasonal flu places on the population, workplaces and the NHS.

The new vaccine significantly boosts effectiveness by improving the body’s immune response to the vaccine. This is important because typically, older adults’ bodies do not respond as well to the flu vaccine due to their naturally weaker immune systems.

The broader flu vaccination programme will also be improved by offering all eligible adults under 65, including pregnant women and those with long-term health conditions, the ‘quadrivalent’ vaccine in injected form.

This protects against a total of four strains of flu; two strains of flu A and two strains of flu B.

Professor Paul Cosford, Medical Director at PHE, said: “Flu is potentially a very serious illness, and we know adults over 65 are more likely to catch and have complications from flu so have the most to gain from an improved vaccine.”

Further protection will be gained by offering flu vaccine to more children this year and giving a vaccine that provides protection against 4 strains of flu to all eligible people under the age of 65.

The vaccination programme will also be improved by extending the nasal spray vaccine to primary school children in year 5 (650,000 extra children), meaning the vaccine will be offered to children in years reception, 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. The programme will eventually roll out to all primary school children.

When this happens, evidence suggests that an additional 63,000 GP consultations could be prevented each year. Due to having typically poorer hand hygiene than adults, children tend to be ‘super-spreaders’ of flu, so protecting them is crucial for protecting the rest of the population.

Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies said: “Getting the flu vaccine is the single best way to protect yourself against this potentially fatal illness, and this year the NHS is offering it to 24 million people across the country.”

The flu vaccine will be available from early October. PHE’s annual flu marketing campaign will launch on 8 October (to tie in with vaccine availability) and will target at-risk audiences including pregnant women, parents of children aged 2 to 3 and adults with long-term conditions.

Eligible adults are encouraged to get their free vaccine from their local general practice or pharmacy before the end of November to protect themselves and their families before flu reaches its seasonal peak. It is the single best way to protect against a potentially very serious illness.

People who are eligible for the flu vaccine this year include:

  • adults aged 65 and over
  • adults aged 18 to 64 with a long term health condition
  • children aged 2 to 3 at their GP practice
  • school children in years reception, 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5
  • pregnant women
  • health and social care workers
  • carers
  • morbidly obese people

Useful links

Summary of data to support the choice of influenza vaccination for adults in primary care