The UK Health Security Agency, NHS England and the Department of Health and Social Care have published their annual letter, dated 25 May 2023, which sets out flu vaccination plans for winter 2023/4.
Eligibility criteria are to return to those which applied pre-pandemic, meaning those aged 50 – 64 will be ineligible for vaccination unless they qualify in a different cohort. For example, if they are clinically at risk or working as a frontline social care worker.
The eligible cohorts for free flu vaccinations from 1 September 2023, which reflect the recommendations of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, are:
- Those aged 65 years and over
- Those aged six months to under 65 years in clinical risk groups as defined in the Green book, chapter 19. See Table 19.4.
- Pregnant women
- All children aged two or three years on 31 August 2023
- Primary school aged children. (An expansion of the flu vaccination programme is being considered to include secondary school aged children in years seven to 11.)
- Those in long-stay residential care homes
- Carers in receipt of carer’s allowance, or those who are the main carer of an elderly or disabled person
- Close contacts of immunocompromised individuals
- Frontline workers in a social care setting without an employer-led occupational health scheme including those working for a registered residential care or nursing home, registered domiciliary care providers, voluntary managed hospice providers and those that are employed by those who receive direct payments (personal budgets) or Personal Health budgets, such as Personal Assistants.
The guidance says all frontline health care workers, including both clinical and non-clinical staff who have contact with patients, should be offered a flu vaccine as part of the organisation’s policy for the prevention of the transmission of flu to help protect both staff and those that they care for.
Social care workers directly working with people clinically vulnerable to flu should also have the flu vaccine provided by their employer.
The guidance states there are circumstances where frontline staff, employed by specific social care providers without access to employer-led occupational health schemes (see cohort eligibility above), can access the vaccine through the NHS free of charge.
The current collection of guidance on flu vaccination 2023-24 is here: Annual flu programme.
There are resources to support uptake here: National flu immunisation programme 2023 to 2024 letter.
Further guidance and communication materials are expected, before the flu vaccination programme starts in September.