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Government preparing ‘biggest flu vaccination programme in history’ – Hancock

The Health Secretary said he wants more people to be eligible for a free flu jab.

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Matt Hancock said planning was already under way for dealing with the expected surge in demand on the NHS this winter (PA)

Matt Hancock said planning was already under way for dealing with the expected surge in demand on the NHS this winter (PA)

Matt Hancock said planning was already under way for dealing with the expected surge in demand on the NHS this winter (PA)

The Government has procured enough vaccine to roll out the “biggest flu vaccination programme in history”, the Health Secretary has said.

Matt Hancock said planning was already under way for dealing with the expected surge in demand on the NHS due to seasonal pressures over winter, including flu.

Speaking at the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) virtual conference on Monday, Mr Hancock said that following the coronavirus outbreak he was expecting high demand for flu jabs over winter.

But he said enough vaccine had already been procured for the “biggest flu vaccine programme in history”, but added it would be a “big task”.

“We all know that having had an incredibly hard six months the next big moment is as winter approaches,” he said.

“We are currently planning in detail for winter. We are expecting high demand.

“We want the flu vaccine programme to be the biggest flu vaccine programme in history.

“We have procured enough vaccine to be able to deliver on that, but then it’s a big task.”

Earlier this month, Downing Street said ministers were trying to secure a “significant additional supply” of vaccines so the uptake in “at-risk” groups could be increased and more people could be made eligible for a free injection.

Currently the flu vaccine is free to those deemed most at risk, including those who are pregnant, over 65, carers and primary school children.

While Sarah MacFadyen, head of policy and public affairs at Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation, welcomed the ambition of the programme, she said more information was needed about how it will be rolled out.

She added: “Increasing uptake amongst at-risk groups is vital to protect the most vulnerable in our society.

“To achieve this, the Government needs to ensure people can easily access the flu jab and that the message of how important it is to get vaccinated reaches as many people as possible.

“Everyone, especially people with lung conditions, must also be reassured the jab can be delivered in a Covid-safe way.”

Mr Hancock said the Government was also working on setting up a coronavirus vaccination programme, should a successful vaccine be found.

He said: “We are working hard on a combination of the Covid vaccination programme, should a vaccination work, and of course the biggest flu vaccination programme in history.

“We are working now on how a Covid vaccine roll-out would work.”

PA