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More people than ever in Scotland will be offered the free flu vaccine to help protect as many lives as possible this winter.

Those people eligible for the free flu vaccine now include:

  • those aged 50 and over
  • those aged 6 months to 49 years who have certain underlying health conditions which increase risk
  • pregnant women
  • children aged 2-5 (not yet at school)
  • health and social care staff
  • unpaid and young carers
  • all primary and secondary school age children, (in school setting)
  • independent NHS contractors, (GP, dental and optometry practices, community pharmacists), laboratory staff (working on COVID-19 testing) including support staff
  • teachers, nursery teachers and support staff in close contact with pupils
  • prison staff and support staff in close contact with the prison population (delivering direct detention services)
  • those in the prison population

The flu vaccination programme will run from this September until March 2022. All those who are eligible are being urged to take up the offer as soon as possible when invited to protect themselves and others and help the NHS and social care services avoid additional pressure over the winter period.

Almost every year in Scotland thousands of people are hospitalised with flu. This winter our immunity may be even lower than usual due to lower levels of the flu virus circulating last year as a result of the crucial public health measures in place to protect the population from COVID-19. Therefore this year, more than ever, it is important to get the flu vaccine to ensure everyone is protected.

Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer has written to the healthcare professionals who will be delivering the flu vaccine to ensure they are prepared to deliver our largest ever flu programme from September.

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said:

“Flu can be extremely serious and is very infectious. With COVID-19 still circulating in the community we can best protect the people of Scotland by encouraging everyone eligible to get vaccinated against flu too.

“That’s why this flu season, we are extending the vaccination programme and offering the flu vaccine to around four million people in Scotland. This will help to protect those most at risk as well as ease pressure on our National Health Service and social care services. The vaccines are safe and the best way to help protect you, and others, from flu this winter.”

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Nicola Steedman said:

“The public health measures put in place to help fight against COVID-19 meant that the circulation of flu viruses was very low last season. As restrictions continue to lift and we get back to living our lives more normally it is important this year, more than ever, that you receive your flu vaccine if you are eligible, and before flu starts to spread widely. It only takes a few minutes to be vaccinated, and it helps to provide protection from flu for the period of time that flu is likely to be circulating in Scotland.

“The JCVI has also published interim advice on providing a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to those eligible in the autumn. Any such extension to the vaccine programme would run alongside the vital flu programme, to protect those at risk from flu this winter. We will take this into account while we await the final JCVI recommendations. But we urge people not to forget about flu, and to come forward for their flu vaccination this year.”

Background

This year, the following groups are eligible for the flu vaccine:

  • all those aged 50 years of age and over
  • those over 6 months of age with a medical condition which puts them in an ‘at risk’ group such as asthma, diabetes, cystic fibrosis, multiple sclerosis, heart and lung diseases, or autoimmune disorders.
  • healthcare workers
  • social care workers who deliver direct personal care
  • unpaid and young carers
  • pregnant women (including those with at risk conditions)
  • children aged 2-5 years old (not yet at school)
  • primary school children
  • secondary school pupils
  • NHS independent contractors including GP, dental and optometry practices, community pharmacists and laboratory staff working on COVID-19 testing
  • teachers, nursery teachers and support staff in close contact with pupils (in both a local authority and independent setting)
  • prison staff and support staff in close contact with the prison population (delivering direct detention services)
  • those in the prison population

Source: Photo by Brittany Colette on Unsplash

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