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Carers UK responds to NHS flu and COVID-19 vaccine programmes being brought forward due to risk of new Covid variant 

NHS England has announced that eligible people, including unpaid carers, will now start to be offered a COVID-19 vaccine from 11 September, in line with the latest expert guidance on the new Covid variant. 

Carers UK is encouraging unpaid carers aged 16 to 64 to flag that they are an unpaid carer for a friend or family member so that their eligibility for the Covid vaccine is clear. 

Helen Walker, chief executive at Carers UK, said,

“It is vital that anyone with a caring responsibility for a friend or family member registers their caring role with their GP to ensure their eligibility for the Covid vaccine is clearly recognised, so that they can protect themselves and their loved ones against the new variant. 

“Carers identifying themselves with their GP and asking for this to be flagged on their patient record will also see longer term public health benefits, such as being offered a free flu jab, which is so important for safeguarding themselves and the older, disabled or seriously ill relatives they support during the more challenging winter months.” 

The adult Covid and flu vaccination programmes were due to start in October but now those most at risk will start to be vaccinated from 11 September. 

The change follows an announcement by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) about the risks presented by the new BA.2.86 variant and is a precautionary measure. 

The NHS will start to invite people in priority order of risk and those eligible will be able to book an appointment on the NHS National Booking Service.  

Those eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine are: 

  • residents in a care home for older adults 
  • all adults aged 65 years and over 
  • persons aged 6 months to 64 years in a clinical risk group, as laid out in the Immunisation Green Book, COVID-19 chapter (Green Book) 
  • frontline health and social care workers 
  • persons aged 12 to 64 years who are household contacts (as defined in the Green Book) of people with immunosuppression 
  • persons aged 16 to 64 years who are carers (as defined in the Green Book) and staff working in care homes for older adults 

The Immunisation Green Book lists carers as those who are eligible for a Carer’s Allowance, or those aged 16 years and over who are the sole or primary carer of an elderly or disabled person who is at increased risk of COVID-19 mortality and therefore clinically vulnerable. This is the same definition as has been used for the COVID-19 booster. 

Those clinically vulnerable to COVID-19 are defined by the following JCVI priority groups:

  1. children of any age with severe neuro-disability, severe or profound and multiple learning disabilities (including Down’s syndrome and those on the learning disability register) or immunosuppression (as defined in table 4 in the Immunisation Green Book, Chapter 14a),
  2. adults who have underlying health conditions leading to greater risk of disease or mortality as defined in table 3 in the Green Book,
  3. those of advanced age. 

Those eligible for a flu vaccine this year include carers in receipt of Carer’s Allowance, or those who are the main carer of an elderly or disabled person and close contacts of immunocompromised individuals.  

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