Since the announcement in July, by the Minister for Health and Social Services Vaughan Gething, that Wales’ would run its largest ever flu vaccination programme, take up of the vaccine is already high.
The latest figures show that community pharmacy flu vaccinations are ten times the level this September compared to September 2019, with 16,323 vaccinations delivered this year compared to 1,652 in the same month last year.
This year, with the potential for co-circulation of coronavirus and flu, people are being encouraged to take up their flu vaccine if eligible, to protect themselves, their families, communities and the NHS.
Alongside supporting existing eligible groups, including those aged over 65 years, pregnant women and people with underlying health conditions, the programme will lower the eligibility age from 65 to over 50 year olds – who will be vaccinated in a phased approach starting later this year.
Today (Wednesday 7 October) the Minister for Health, who himself is in the existing eligible group, received his flu vaccine and is encouraging other to take up the offer if they are eligible.
The Minister, who received his vaccination at the Well Pharmacy in Cardiff Bay, said:
Every year I’m invited to have a flu vaccine due to my own underlying health condition, so I know first-hand how important it is to have it.
This year, of course, people are even more aware than ever of the dangerous of respiratory viral infection and my message is to get yourself vaccinated if you are eligible.
We want to protect as many people as possible, particularly those who are most vulnerable in our community, and continue to protect our NHS. Everyone who is eligible for a NHS flu vaccine should be confident about having it and the benefits it brings. It’s incredibly important that those working within the NHS with direct patient contact, in care homes and those providing domiciliary care protect themselves by receiving their free vaccination. I also want to encourage people to remind eligible relatives and friends to get their flu vaccine, so together we can beat flu.
It’s encouraging to see the figures for flu vaccinations taking place in community pharmacy this September, it shows people are making the best choices to protect themselves and their families.
GP surgeries and pharmacies have ordered sufficient vaccine supplies for those who are vaccinated year after year. Additional supplies have also been arranged to support increased uptake in priority groups and for our expanded eligibility groups. It’s important to remember this will be done in a phased approach.
Some of those eligible for a flu vaccine may have to wait longer than usual to secure an appointment, but I would like to reassure everyone that sufficient stocks are available for those recommended the vaccine.
Russell Goodway, Chief Executive of Community Pharmacy Wales, said:
Community Pharmacy Wales is delighted the Health Minister is leading by example by having his annual flu vaccination. We are particularly pleased he has chosen, as usual, to have his vaccination at a community pharmacy.
The community pharmacy network across Wales is gearing up for a potential second wave of COVID-19 over the autumn, fully aware that the challenges during the autumn and winter might be even more acute. To help protect the NHS at this critical time, it is more important than ever for those who qualify for the NHS flu vaccination arrange to be vaccinated and it does appear that this important message is getting through.
86% of community pharmacies are offering the flu vaccination service this year (and this number is still growing), a 5% increase on last year, and a 10% increase on 2018/19. In terms of individual community pharmacists accredited to vaccinate, there has been a 32% rise in accreditation since October 2019.
Most patients continue to receive their flu vaccination at their GP surgery and Community Pharmacy Wales continues to encourage patients who have an appointment at their practice to keep this appointment. GP practices and community pharmacies work together to help ensure that as many patients who need to be vaccinated can be and that, between us, we help ensure that Welsh Government targets are met. The September figures show that this provision is moving purposefully to becoming universal, and using your community pharmacy to get a flu vaccination is now the natural option for an ever increasing number of people.