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Winter flu: Matt Hancock promises UK’s ‘biggest vaccination programme ever’ | UK News

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The UK’s “biggest flu vaccination programme in history” will be rolled out this winter, the health secretary has said.

Matt Hancock said he was expecting more people to want a flu jab this year in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The extra vaccine needed has been secured, he told the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) virtual conference on Monday.

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And the Department of Health has already begun planning how to cope with the expected winter surge in demand for NHS services, he added.

Mr Hancock said: “We all know that having had an incredibly hard six months the next big moment is as winter approaches.

“We are currently planning in detail for winter. We are expecting high demand.

“We want the flu vaccine programme to be the biggest flu vaccine programme in history. We have procured enough vaccine to be able to deliver on that, but then it’s a big task.”

The vaccine is currently free to those deemed most at risk, including pregnant women, over-65s, carers and primary school children.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer recently urged ministers to offer it to anyone over 50 this winter to safeguard the NHS against the “perfect storm” of a winter flu outbreak and a resurgence of coronavirus.

Earlier this month, Downing Street said ministers were trying to secure a “significant additional supply” of vaccines so the uptake in “at-risk” groups could be increased and more people could be made eligible for a free injection.

Up until the ninth week of the year, 7,990 people died from flu in the UK last winter, according to government statistics.

The government is also working on setting up a coronavirus vaccination programme, should a successful vaccine be found, Mr Hancock said.

“We are working hard on a combination of the COVID vaccination programme, should a vaccination work, and of course the biggest flu vaccination programme in history.

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“We are working now on how a COVID vaccine rollout would work,” he added.

Nearly 45,000 people in the UK have died from COVID-19 from 290,000 cases of the disease, according to government figures.

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