Ruth Maguire MSP has urged people who are eligible for the free flu vaccination to take up the offer to protect themselves and others and help the NHS avoid additional pressure over the winter period.

More people than ever are being offered the vaccine this year to address the additional risk posed by coronavirus (COVID-19). In order to vaccinate more people safely, where you go to get your vaccine may be different from previous years and may not be at a GP surgery.

New walk-in or drive-through centres have been set up in many areas within local facilities, such as town halls and community hubs, along with outreach programmes for the sole purpose of delivering the free flu jab. They will provide a safe alternative to GP surgeries for adults who are eligible and have received, or will receive, a letter in the coming weeks, to book a vaccination appointment.

As in previous years, local health teams will be deployed to primary schools to offer the vaccination to all primary school aged children.

For those living in and working in care homes, along with those receiving care at home and the elderly, local NHS Boards are making arrangements for vaccinations to take place in the home.

Vaccination for the different groups will be staggered with those most at risk being prioritised. So far, invitations have been sent to two of those groups, parents of those aged 2-5 years and those aged 65 and over, inviting them to make an appointment.

From October, further letters will be sent to priority groups including:

  • All primary school children
  • Anyone with an eligible health condition
  • Pregnant women
  • Healthcare workers
  • Unpaid and young carers
  • Those living in the same home as people previously shielding from coronavirus
  • Social care workers who provide direct personal care

From December, those aged 55 to 64 (by 31 March 2021) who would not usually be eligible will also be offered the flu vaccine.

The SNP MSP said: “It’s more important than usual if you are eligible to receive the flu jab this year that you get it.

“Flu is serious and with COVID-19 still circulating in the community there is increased risk to life if you are ill with both viruses simultaneously, therefore we all need to play our part to keep ourselves as healthy as possible over the winter months. Flu vaccination is a big part of that.

“Please be assured that measures will be put in place to make the procedure as safe as possible to protect you and medical staff.”

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Nicola Steedman said: “This year, more than ever, it is important that you receive your flu vaccine if you are eligible.

“The way the flu vaccine is administered will be a little different for many people, given COVID-19 restrictions, and it may not be at a GP practice for some.

“Some people may be worried about the risks of going out to get their vaccination, but getting your flu vaccine is one of the most important reasons for leaving your home and strict infection prevention and control measures will be in place to protect you. The vaccine is safe and it’s the best way to help protect you from flu this winter. It only takes a few minutes to be vaccinated, and it helps to provide protection from flu for around a year.

Everyone who is eligible for a free flu jab will be contacted in writing in the coming weeks with details of how to make an appointment. These letters will not all be sent out at the same time and instead will be staggered to ensure those most at clinical risk are prioritised.

People will receive a letter asking them to book an appointment at a venue which may be at their local pharmacy, attending a local walk through centre, by visiting a GP practice or nearby mobile unit or with a district nurse.

More information on eligibility and how to make an appointment in your area is available at nhsinform.scot/flu – or call 0800 22 44 88 where an NHS24 call handler will be able to direct you.

The flu vaccination programme will run from early October through to February next year