During the pandemic the NHS extended the eligibility for its national Seasonal Influenza (flu) Vaccination Programme. In 2020/21, this was extended to a number of groups including those aged 50 to 64 and Year 7 pupils. This was then further extended to those up to Year 11 in secondary schools in 2021/22.
Based on the minutes of the Influenza Sub-committee of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), Doctorcall had concluded that these extensions would be made recurrent in future guidance - including for 2022/23. This sub-committee meets in the Autumn to agree the advice for flu vaccines for the following season.
This includes advice on both the cohorts that should be eligible and the vaccines to be used. This is done well in advance of that season to support operational planning including organising the vaccine supply chains and staffing. The sub-committee's minutes had indicated that the Department of Health and Social Care had noted "the priority was to extend the schools programme on a recurrent basis as well as whether to maintain the extension of vaccination to 50-64 year olds if COVID-19 remained a concern in 2022/23".
The NHS has published its guidance for its 2022/2023 NHS Seasonal Influenza (flu) Vaccination Programme, and it has removed eligibility for those under-65 and secondary school children aged 11 to 15 (those in years 7 to 11). This is a surprise. This is likely to have been due to funding pressures and ministers' desire to adjust the country to live with Covid-19.
What does this means to you
This will increase the need for flu vaccines at workplaces and schools:
- The NHS administered 3.5m vaccines to 50 to 64 year olds last year. This cohort will be ineligible and unvaccinated unless they get immunised privately or via their workplace. This will affect corporate resilience; and we expect firms to place greater importance on vaccinating their staff this year.
- Secondary school children will not be vaccinated, and will more likely get and propagate influenza. This will likely affect staff, and we recommend seconary schools consider a staff vaccination programme to develop staff resilience.
The private capacity to deliver on-site vaccinations will improve. Staffing constraints continue to be a problem in the healthcare sector. However, this change in NHS policy will reduce the NHS's need for Covid vaccinators, ameliorating this particular staffing challenge. Doctorcall has launched its recruitment for 2022/23, and has had a very good response.
For more information on flu vaccine in your school or workplace please email firstname.lastname@example.org