Adults aged 50–64 are added to groups eligible for a free flu vaccination this winter, the UK government said on Friday.
From Dec. 1, anyone over 50 years old will be able to get their free flu jab from their doctors or pharmacists.
The decision comes as the country braces for a tough winter with the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus still spreading on top of the usual flu season.
“This winter is like no other, and we have to worry about the twin threats of flu and COVID-19,” Matt Hancock, secretary of state for health and social care, said in a statement.
“COVID means getting a flu jab is more important than ever this year. So we are delivering the largest ever flu vaccination programme. Free vaccinations for 50 to 64 years olds will now be available from GPs and pharmacies starting from 1 December.”
To promote the vaccine, the health secretary also posted on Twitter a video of himself taking the jab.
The government said the flu vaccine will be offered to 30 million people in England.
Apart from over 50s, the groups eligible this year also include pregnant women, those with certain pre-existing conditions, NHS and social care workers, all children up to year 7, and household contacts of those who are clinically extremely vulnerable.
According to official data, Flu vaccine uptake increased this year in all vulnerable groups except pregnant women.
The government said provisional data published by Public Health England suggests that 72.9 percent of those aged 65 and over, 45 percent of 2-year-olds, and 46.8 percent of 3-year-olds have had their vaccine.
“I urge all those who are eligible for the flu vaccine, including the new group of 50 to 64 year olds, to book their appointments as soon as they can,” Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England Dr. Jonathan Van-Tam said.
Public Health Minister Jo Churchill also urged people to get vaccinated.
“More vaccine is flowing into GPs and pharmacies throughout the next few months, and I would urge anyone eligible for their flu vaccine to get one, including all health and social care workers,” Churchill said.
The government said any future CCP virus vaccine roll-out will be separate from the flu vaccine programme. The two will run in parallel and the NHS is “well equipped to administer both,” it added.