“The vaccine will continue to be freely available to existing eligible groups, including those aged over 65 years, pregnant women and people with medical conditions,” the government has said (Photo: iStock).

The Welsh government has included more beneficiaries to this year’s free winter flu vaccine programme, health minister Vaughan Gething has said.

The additional vaccine supply will be available for households in the shielded group and all above the age of 50, which means the government has lowered the eligibility age for the vaccination from 65 to over 50.

“The vaccine will continue to be freely available to existing eligible groups, including those aged over 65 years, pregnant women and people with medical conditions,” the government has said.

All those who eligible for the free winter vaccination programme will be contacted by the National Health Service (NHS).

Additional supplies of the nasal spray flu vaccine offered to the children will be used to maximise uptake in the vaccination programme offered to two and three year olds, and to all children in primary schools.

Gething commented: “This winter more than ever we need to protect the most vulnerable in our community and continue to protect our NHS.

“By extending the flu vaccine to more people than ever before we can help prevent people becoming ill and reduce pressure on the NHS this winter. I would urge anyone who is eligible to have the vaccine.”

The Chief Medical Officer for Wales, Frank Atherton, said:  “Everyone who is eligible for a NHS flu vaccine should be confident about having it to protect themselves and those around them this winter.

“Those already eligible, which include some of the most vulnerable in our community will receive the vaccination first and via a phased approach our programme will be rolled out further to the over 50’s and households of those shielding.”

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