What Does The New Flu Vaccine Mean For GPs?

As we move into flu season, people will be flocking to their GPs to get their annual flu vaccination. However, this year sees significant changes to the vaccine programme with the introduction of a new flu vaccine and nasal spray for primary school children, as well as a new adjuvanted vaccination for the over 65s. It is hoped that the new vaccine will have many positive effects for GPs, with fewer flu-related consultations this winter. But how will the new vaccine be received by patients, and what impact will it have on GPs?

About the new flu vaccine programme

The new flu vaccine has been launched in order to tackle the growing number of deaths from flu. In a typical year, there are around 8,000 deaths from flu, but this number grew substantially to 15,000 last year. There are concerns that existing vaccines aren’t as effective, particularly in older people.

There are a number of recommended vaccines being recommended for patients this year, a quadrivalent flu vaccine aimed at those in the ‘at risk’ category for 18-65s, plus an adjuvanted trivalent vaccine for the over 65s. The nasal spray vaccine will initially be rolled out to primary school children in years 1-5, although Public Health England hope to be able to roll out the vaccine to all primary school pupils in the future. It is hoped that these new vaccines will not only provide greater protection against flu, but help lower the risk of spreading the virus too.

What the new flu vaccine programme will mean

It is hoped that enhanced protection against flu will save around 30,000 GP consultations this year, with 2,000 fewer people being hospitalised and deaths reduced by as much as 700.

The new flu vaccine will offer protection against different strains of flu, with the vaccine aimed at over 65s preventing three types of the virus. The vaccine aimed at the under 65s will protect against four.

Flu vaccines are offered for free to at risk groups, which this year are defined as:

  • Over 65s
  • 18-64s with chronic/long-term health conditions
  • Children aged 2-3
  • School pupils from years 1-5
  • Pregnant women
  • Health and social care staff
  • Carers
  • Those who display morbid obesity

The Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, has said that the new adjuvanted vaccine ‘could prevent hundreds of deaths and save thousands of GP and hospital hours’.

A reduction in flu-related consultations could ease some of the pressure to cut appointments and waiting times, allowing GP appointments to be freed up for more urgent medical problems.

What GPs need to know

GPs have been issued guidelines for this year’s flu vaccination programme, which features a number of recommendations about which vaccines to order and what to do if older unadjuvanted vaccines have already been ordered.

The new vaccine programme is set to begin next month, with patients being recommended to get their flu jab before the end of November.

All NHS workers are being urged to have the flu jab too, and those who refuse may be moved to less ‘high-risk’ units. It is hoped that these new measures will help to ease the growing pressure on the NHS this winter and ensure that more people are better protected against what can be a deadly virus.