The UK government has vastly expanded its free flu vaccination program, as the NHS prepares for a potential second spike in Covid-19 cases in winter.
The hope is to vaccinate 30 million people during the upcoming flu season, in an effort to mitigate the effects of a potential resurgence of coronavirus, the government has announced.
The flu shot program will, for the first time, include all people over the age of 50, as well as children in their first year of secondary school. In previous years, the shot was offered for free to anyone over the age of 65, as well as young children, pregnant women, and people with serious underlying health conditions. However, the government is prioritizing those who are seen as most at risk.
UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock described the health initiative as “the biggest flu vaccine program in history.” According to Public Health England, some 15 million doses of the flu vaccine were administered in 2019-2020.
Health experts are concerned that there could be a second spike of coronavirus cases in winter, which would coincide with the start of the flu season. Hancock argued that increasing the number of flu vaccinations would help the NHS cope with a potential surge in Covid-19 cases.
“This winter more than ever, with Covid-19 still circulating, we need to help reduce all avoidable risks,” said Chris Whitty, the nation’s chief medical adviser.
The initiative comes as nations around the world scramble to develop an effective vaccine for coronavirus. However, the UK’s Vaccine Taskforce cautioned earlier this week that a successful immunization program against the illness is far from certain.
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