Flu jabs should be offered out of hours to encourage uptake, new guidance suggests

People at a higher risk during the flu season should be able to get their flu jab in the evenings and at weekends to encourage uptake of the vaccine, new guidance suggests.

Suggestions on how to help increase vaccination rates includes those who offer free NHS flu jabs – such as GP practices or pharmacies – opening out of hours to increase take-up among at-risk groups.

It also suggests that people who are eligible for a free NHS flu jab should be reminded about the jab before the flu vaccination seasons starts in September each year.

Figures for the last flu season show that uptake rates improved on the previous year across most at-risk groups – including almost three-quarters (73%) of over-65s; almost half (49%) of younger people in a “clinical risk group”, including those with a chronic long-term condition such as asthma; and 47% of pregnant women.

The new guidance, from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) and endorsed by Public Health England, highlights the importance of educating people about why they should be vaccinated.

It also demonstrates how people in at-risk groups should be made aware so they can have one free of charge.

GPs could use their electronic records to identify those at risk and people could be sent written reminders, receive phone calls or be contacted on social media to remind them to get their jab, the guidance suggests.

This includes the elderly, pregnant women, people with certain medical conditions, care home residents or carers.

Each winter hundreds of thousands of people see their GP because of flu and it is estimated to cause around 8,000 deaths per year.

During the last flu season, experts said there were “moderate to high levels of influenza activity” and there were almost 16,000 excess deaths attributable to flu last season.

A Nice spokesman said: “Making flu vaccination convenient, such as providing evening and weekend services in community pharmacies, would encourage greater uptake and therefore help to reduce incidence of flu and the associated pressure on healthcare.”

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