NHS Winter vaccine rollout kicks off with care homes

Residents of older adult care homes and people who are housebound will begin receiving their covid and flu vaccinations from today, as the NHS kickstarts the winter vaccinations campaign.

The adult covid and flu vaccination programme, which was brought forward based on the latest expert advice following the emergence of a new covid-19 variant, will prioritise those at greatest risk.

Starting with care homes and people who are housebound, other eligible groups will begin to be invited to get their top up protection ahead of winter, from next week.

NHS staff have worked hard to prepare for the earlier start of the programme with 3,500 sites – more sites than ever before – taking part in the campaign this year to make it as easy as possible for people to get protection.

People will be able to book their jabs from 18 September, through the NHS website, the NHS App or by calling 119.

Eligible groups may also be offered a vaccination sooner by GP surgeries or other local NHS services.

The NHS is encouraging people to get both vaccinations as soon as they can and not delay, due to the risk of the new covid-19 variant and ahead of the winter period.

It is important for those who are eligible to top up their protection, even if they have had a vaccine or been ill with flu or covid before, as immunity wanes over time and these viruses change each year.

With the programme brought forward, vaccine providers will be given an additional payment of £10 for each covid vaccination they administer to care home residents between 11 September to 22 October 2023. They will also be given a separate one-off payment of £200 for each completed care home by the end of 22 October 2023.

For other eligible groups, vaccine providers will receive an additional £5 acceleration payment for each covid vaccination administered to eligible people between 11 September and 31 October 2023.

Last year, the NHS faced the ‘twindemic’ of flu and covid with high occupancy in hospitals and record pressure on staff and plans for this winter are already underway.

NHS Director of Vaccinations and Screening, Steve Russell said: “The NHS flu and covid vaccination programmes have been very effective in protecting those at greatest risk and we will work at speed to ensure they are protected once again this year, starting with care homes and those who are housebound today.

“With concerns arising over new covid variants, it’s vital we adapt the programme and bring it forward for those most at risk, and so I strongly urge everyone eligible to come forward as soon as they can for this important protection in colder months.

“NHS staff have worked hard to ensure services are ready for patients to get jabbed at an earlier stage so they can get their protection as soon as possible”.

Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation at the UK Health Security Agency said: “Older people and those in clinical risk groups remain at highest risk of serious illness from covid-19.

“The rollout of this year’s autumn booster begins in care homes today, with more eligible groups being invited to get protected over the coming weeks.

“The vaccine continues to provide the best protection against serious illness and hospitalisation from covid-19, so please make sure you get vaccinated when offered and encourage loved ones who are eligible to do the same”.

Children aged 2-17 will still be able to receive their flu vaccinations from next week. Parents are strongly encouraged to fill out their consent forms to enable their child to get protected.

The most effective vaccine for children is the nasal vaccine, which is even more convenient and easily administered when compared to a jab.

Following guidance from the Chief Medical Officer and the UK Health Security Agency, NHS England brought forward its covid and flu vaccination programme, which was due to commence at the beginning of October.

The guidance was given following the emergence of the covid variant BA.2.86, which is currently under assessment by UKHSA. The agency’s latest variant technical briefing providing analysis on the variant was published on Friday.

Last year, the NHS carried out its second biggest ever flu vaccination campaign, with more than 21 million flu vaccinations given to adults and children, while more than 17 million covid jabs were delivered last winter.

Earlier this year, NHS England announced more than 86 million covid vaccination appointments have been arranged using the NHS’s national online booking system since its launch two years ago.