NHS England has told community pharmacies providing Covid vaccinations to plan for an ‘early October’ start to the autumn vaccination programme, in a letter published today.

It said that it will agree a precise start date for both the flu and Covid jab campaigns ‘in due course’.

The fee for each vaccination will remain at £7.54, 'despite further counter-arguments' from community pharmacy and general practice representatives, Community Pharmacy England (CPE) said.

It will be increased by an additional £10 for each housebound patient vaccinated in their home will be able to claim an additional £10 fee, and by an additional £2.50 for each patient 'where the seasonal influenza vaccination is not announced', CPE said.

With advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) on the autumn Covid vaccination campaign still to come, NHSE asked pharmacies ‘to plan on a similar basis to last autumn’, albeit with the expectation ‘that the autumn 2024 campaign may be smaller than the autumn 2023 campaign’.

Last year, residents in care homes, over-65s and those in a clinical risk group were eligible for a Covid-19 booster jab.

Today's announcement follows previous advice that the flu vaccination programme would begin in October this year in order to maximise vaccine effectiveness.

The government said in March that vaccinating eligible groups ‘closer to the time that the flu season commonly starts’ will ‘provide optimal protection’.

Today’s letter to vaccination providers said that beginning both vaccination programmes at the same time in October ‘maximises the opportunity for co-administration while also reflecting JCVI advice that the flu vaccine’s effectiveness can wane over time’.

And it added that further detail about supply and training would be provided ahead of the campaign.

Last year, the start date for flu vaccinations was changed from September to October, and then back to September along with an earlier start for Covid vaccinations.