In July 2020, the UK government announced its most ambitious seasonal influenza (‘flu) vaccination programme to date. The eligible cohorts for the annual vaccination were extended to include 50-64 year olds, people shielding and their household contacts and children in their first year of secondary school. National ambitions have increased to achieving 75% uptake across all cohorts and 100% offer for health care workers.1 This is quite a task. Last year (2019/20), while 72.4% of over 65s were vaccinated, only 44.9% of the ‘clinical at risk’ group (patients aged 6 months to under 65 years), 43.7% of all pregnant women, 60.4% of primary school children and 43.8% of age 2 and 3 year olds received the flu vaccination.2 In health care workers, 74.3% of frontline workers received the flu vaccination.3 In some areas of the country this will mean doubling the output in order to achieve the ambitions this year.
The purpose of this article is to help simplify the flu vaccination programme this year, to give some context, define those who are eligible and discuss some of the challenges and solutions to protecting people against seasonal influenza during a COVID-19 pandemic.
Why is the flu Vaccine Important this year?