Thirty million people in England are to be offered a free flu vaccination this year, the government has said.
The aim is to double the NHS winter flu programme in a bid to help protect against a potential surge in coronavirus during the colder months.
Who can get a free flu jab?
The UK government is extending its free flu vaccination programme to include those who are aged 50 and over, and 11-year-olds.
Anyone who is living in a household with somebody on the NHS shielded patient list for coronavirus will also be eligible for a free jab, along with frontline health and social care workers.
The full list of people who are currently eligible for the free NHS flu programme includes:
- people aged 65 and over
- pregnant women
- people with certain health conditions, such as kidney disease, asthma or heart disease
- children over the age of six months with a long-term health condition
- all children aged between two and 10 on 31 August 2020
- carers and people in care homes
- health and social care staff
This will now be extended to include the following groups:
- people who were required to shield from coronavirus and anyone they live with
- children aged 11
- people aged between 50 and 64
In 2019, around 15 million people in England received the vaccine against seasonal flu, but ministers are hoping to double this figure for 2020, bringing the total to 30 million this winter.
The government hopes NHS and social care workers will see it as their professional responsibility to get the flu jab, but has not ruled out making it mandatory in the future.
Why are more people being offered the flu jab?
The extension of the flu programme comes following warnings from health experts about a possible spike in coronavirus cases in winter, coupled with seasonal flu, potentially overwhelming the NHS.
It is also feared that people could suffer from both viruses at the same time.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged the public to get a flu jab in the run up to winter, saying it will help to protect the NHS.
Mr Johnson told Sky News: "We want everybody to get a flu jab in the run-up to this winter and that's why we're rolling out the biggest-ever programme of flu immunisation.
"And we're aiming first of all for schoolchildren up to year seven, for pregnant women, for people over 65, for people who are shielded, but then we will be extending it to people who are 50 to 65.
"Now the reason for doing this is to protect the NHS in the winter months because obviously we have still got Covid, we have still got the threat of a second spike on Covid, and it's vital therefore to keep that pressure off the NHS by everybody getting a flu jab and I really hope everybody will."
When can I get a flu jab?
The flu immunisation programme starts in September, and the NHS will get in contact with all those who are eligible.
GP surgeries will focus on the highest risk groups first, ahead of those who are aged over 50 and in the fit and healthy range, who will be vaccinated later in the year.
Not all GP surgeries will have enough fridge space to accept all the doses of the vaccine they will need, but the aim is that all people who are eligible for the jab will have received their vaccine by Christmas.
You can arrange an appointment for the jab with your GP or local pharmacy.