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More people than ever will be offered the free flu jabs this year in Scotland’s largest-ever winter vaccination programme, which now includes community pharmacists in the eligible group.

The free vaccine has been extended to protect as many lives as possible and eligible groups now include independent NHS contractors that comprises general practitioners, dental and optometry practices, community pharmacists along with laboratory and support staff working on Covid-19 testing.

Earlier, the vaccine was limited to over-65-years-old, those with certain health conditions, pregnant women, healthcare workers and carers.

However, for the 2021-2022 flu season, the following will be invited to receive the free vaccine:

  • 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 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 the immunity is anticipated to be even lower than usual due to lower levels of the flu virus circulating last year because 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, a government statement said.

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: “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 (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) 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.”

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