The flu jab is set to be offered to all over 50s and secondary school children in Wales this autumn.
The Welsh Government has confirmed that children in school years 7 to 11 will be routinely given the vaccination for the first time due to the higher risk of flu and respiratory conditions spreading this winter.
It means the flu vaccine will be available on the NHS to well over 1.5m people in Wales this winter – the highest number in history.
The Covid booster programme will be “co-administered” to those who are eligible “where appropriate to do so” in an effort to improve efficiency and increase uptake of both vaccines.
Chief Medical Officer for Wales Frank Atherton said he was concerned about a “perfect storm” of both flu and Covid-19 this winter.
Health Minister Eluned Morgan said: “It is very important people take the opportunity to have their flu vaccination and we are delighted it can be rolled out with the Covid booster in some situations.
“It is thanks to the incredible success of our Covid vaccination programme, where we have learnt valuable lessons and seen unprecedented levels of uptake, that we have been able to extend the flu vaccination programme to all those over 50 years old and between years 7 to 11 in the schools programme.
“We expect there to be a co-circulation of both flu and Covid-19 this winter and cannot stress enough how key it is that those who are eligible take up both their flu jab and Covid booster vaccine.”
The Welsh Government said it hoped extending the flu vaccination programme would reduce death and serious illness associated with influenza, as well as reduce hospitalisations during a time when the NHS and social care may again be managing winter outbreaks of Covid-19.
It has set an ambition of 75% of secondary school pupils to have the flu vaccination and 80% of those aged 65 and over.v Additional funding of £6.8m will be allocated to health boards to reach both new cohorts.
Dr Atherton said he will be writing to NHS Wales about the National Influenza Immunisation Programme 2021-22, detailing the priority vaccination groups, the uptake ambitions, details of the vaccines available and the potential for co-administration of the Covid and flu vaccines this coming season.
He said: “This is the first time we have extended the flu vaccination programme to those in school years 7-11, as we appreciate the greater risk of flu and respiratory conditions spreading through young people during the winter period.
“We are concerned about a perfect storm of both flu and Covid-19 this winter, and are doing everything to prepare as best as we can.”
In 2020/2021 more than a million people were given the flu jab in Wales, the highest amount ever, and for the first time the uptake in the over-65s exceeded 75%.
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