A flu vaccination programme will target more people than ever this winter – and a health campaigner says it’s vital.
Jabs begin next month, offering for the first time free vaccinations to social care workers and and, from December, people aged 55-64 years.
New temporary emergency powers have also been granted to community pharmacists to administer the vaccines.
Health campaigner Andrew Rodger, a former chair of Fife Health Board, said: “An influx of flu cases would have a major impact on hospitals across Tayside and Fife.
“European hospitals tend to operate at 80% capacity, which leave them room for manoeuvre, but here over winter its not uncommon for hospitals to be at 100%.
“Like Covid testing, it’s all very well talking about capacity in numbers, but it’s how much of that capacity being used that’s important.
“The same applies for flu vaccinations. I understand two and half million people will be vaccinated across Scotland this winter but we must get the details of how exactly this will be done.”
He added: “Excess deaths indicate that we’re already counting the cost of other diseases which are not being treated currently and traditionally we see 20,000 deaths from flu each winter.
“Flu vaccination is all about prevention.
”Otherwise, we could see people being written off as casualties again.”
Dorothy McHugh, secretary of Dundee Pensioner’s Forum, said she was especially worried supply may fall short of what is needed.
She added: “It looks like basically everyone is going to get a flu vaccine, just in different stages, so there are concerns for us about the supply for elderly people who are most vulnerable and have had it worst in this pandemic.
“The top priority for these flu vaccines, of course, needs to be people over 65 who are most vulnerable to the flu, and we need to hope that there is a proper infrastructure to get these vaccines out.
“How are we going to make sure that these older people getting their vaccines are going to the surgery safely?
“I know a lot of older people who have said they won’t be going out again.”
From this month, free jabs are being offered to all primary school children and those aged two to five years old.
Also anyone aged 65 and over, those with eligible health conditions, pregnant women, healthcare workers and unpaid carers.
The second phase, which begins in December, will – depending on supplies – include those aged 55 to 64.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said enough vaccine had been procured to vaccinate all those with existing eligibility.
She added: “We have also worked with the Department for Health and Social Care as part of a 4 Nations approach to secure a further 500,000 doses, which will allow us to vaccinate everyone who is eligible under the expansion of our seasonal flu vaccination programme.
“A decision will be made at a strategic point in the vaccination programme to determine whether the expanded vaccination programme can include those aged 50-54, depending upon uptake by people with existing eligibility.”
Jane Forbes, NHS Tayside’s Vaccine Project Manager, said: “With the possibility of Covid-19 circulating alongside flu this winter, in order to protect our most vulnerable population and reduce the impact on our health and social care services, NHS Tayside is planning on vaccinating more individuals than ever before.
“This year’s flu vaccinations will be delivered in a variety of settings including GP practices, hospitals, outpatient departments, schools and local authority venues, care homes and community pharmacies on an appointment basis.
“Information on how to book a flu vaccination appointment can be found on the NHS inform website.”
“Flu can be a very serious illness. It spreads easily and is much worse than a bad cold. The flu jab only takes a few moments and the earlier that people are vaccinated, the less likely flu is to spread. So don’t leave it too late – get ready for flu this winter.”