With flu season fast approaching, NHS North Yorkshire Clinical Commissioning Group and NHS Vale of York Clinical Commissioning Group, along with local authorities want to reassure eligible patients that they will get their free NHS flu vaccination this year – and health partners are working together to ensure people in high risk groups get vaccinated.
The flu vaccination programme in North Yorkshire and York will begin at the start of this month. To reduce the amount of pressure on the NHS, this will be rolled out in phases, with children, care home residents and high risk groups vaccinated first.
GP practices will start sending letters out to eligible patients classed as ‘high risk’ from this month with details on how they can receive their vaccine. Alongside this the school immunisation service will contact parents and carers of children in years reception to (and including) year 7 for consent for their child to have the flu vaccine in school.
High risk patients will continue to be contacted by their GP practices and vaccinated throughout September and October. This includes: residents in care homes or other long-stay care facilities, people aged 65 and over, pregnant women, front-line health and social care workers, carers and personal assistants for someone with a Personal Health Budget, those living in a household with people who have shielded and any people in a clinical risk group (aged from six months to less than 65).
This year, in addition to the normal flu vaccination programme, 50 to 64-year-olds who do not have a health condition putting them at risk of the flu will also be eligible for a free flu vaccine later in the year. GP practices will keep this group of patients informed and are likely to invite them for a flu vaccination in November and December once all other higher risk eligible groups have been vaccinated.
Dr Bruce Willoughby, GP Clinical Lead for Primary Care and Population Health at NHS North Yorkshire CCG, said: “Flu vaccinations are required every year as there are different strains of the influenza virus in circulation each season; immunisation is the best way to help protect people from flu. It’s a virus that has the potential to leave people very poorly, lead to hospitalisation and sometimes even death.
“We know that clinically vulnerable patients who have been shielding during the Covid-19 pandemic are still extremely worried about having contact with anyone outside of their household ‘bubble’, but I want to reassure those patients that practices will have arrangements in place to ensure they can administer vaccinations in a safe and bio-secure way. There will be strict safety measures in place, including social distancing, appropriate PPE, and strict hygiene protocols.”
Dr Nigel Wells, Clinical Chair of NHS Vale of York CCG added: “I would urge anyone who’s in a clinical risk group to take up the vaccination offer when they receive the letter from their surgery. It will give them a much-needed layer of protection and there is absolutely no evidence that getting a flu vaccine increases the risk of getting Covid-19.
“There are many benefits from flu vaccination and preventing flu is always important, but in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s even more vital we each play our part and do everything possible to reduce illness and protect NHS and health care resources for those who need them the most this winter.”
Dr Lincoln Sargeant, Director of Public Health at North Yorkshire County Council said “Having the flu vaccination is one of the most important steps people can take to protect themselves and others from flu and we encourage everyone who is eligible for a free NHS flu vaccine to have one this year, gaining early protection from influenza this winter.”
Councillor Carol Runciman, Executive Member for Health and Adult Social Care, said: “This year it is more important than ever that we protect ourselves and each other by getting a flu jab.
“We are working with partners to ensure people are able to get a flu vaccination as quickly as possible and to ensure high risk groups have access first.
“We will be sharing information throughout the coming weeks and months and I would urge everyone to play their part.”
Patients who do not fall under any of the eligible categories for a free vaccine should not worry as they will also be given the opportunity to be vaccinated at local pharmacies. However, it is crucial that those patients identified as ‘at risk’ are protected first.
For more information about at risk groups and what counts as a clinical ‘at risk group’ go to: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/who-should-have-flu-vaccine/