NHS scraps free flu jabs for over 50s and school children

4 March 2022, 09:43

NHS scraps free flu jabs for millions
NHS scraps free flu jabs for millions. Picture: Alamy

By Stephen Rigley

The NHS will no longer offer free flu jabs to people over 50 and school children after reversing its policy to pre-pandemic rules.

The move comes after a record 35 million people - including everyone over 50 - were offered the vaccines this winter and fears that Britain could face a catastrophic spate of flu cases.

A letter published on the NHS website says that the flu vaccination programme for 2022/23 will be only offered to patient groups eligible in line with "pre-pandemic recommendations".

This includes the over-65s, people in clinically 'at risk' groups, very young children and pregnant women.

These changes are expected to affect around 10 million people aged over 50 and four million secondary school children. Some of them had already booked jab appointments.

The letter said: "Seasonal flu vaccination remains an important public health intervention and a key priority for 2022/23 to reduce morbidity, mortality and hospitalisation associated with flu at a time when the NHS and social care will be managing winter pressures, potentially including further outbreaks of COVID-19."

Dr Leyla Hannbeck, the chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies, told The Telegraph: "No one has communicated to the public that the offer of flu jabs this year is going to be any different to last year.

"Last year over-50s were being told they should get their jab, now the advice has changed, but no one is explaining why. It's going to cause so much confusion."

The guidance was given in line with advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) and Department of Health and Social Care although minutes from December's meeting show the committee was keen to see 11 to 16-year-olds still offered jabs.

However, JCVI minutes from December suggest the committee was keen to see children aged 11 to 16 still offered jabs. 

A Whitehall source said: "We are getting back to business as usual. It made sense to expand the flu jab offer during the pandemic when we were concerned about the twin dangers of Covid and flu, but we need to get working in the way we used to, as part of living with Covid."

The measure, which will save the taxpayer and the NHS money, comes following warnings against axing free Covid tests - which is said to cost up to £2billion a month.