Figures from NHS England show that 20,097,116 NHS flu vaccinations have been delivered since 1 August 2022.

As of 12 January, this included around four in five, or 8.7m, of people in England aged 65 and over, and over three in five, or 5.5m, of those aged 50 to 64.

Helga Mangion, policy manager at the National Pharmacy Association (NPA), said that three-quarters of people would be happy to be vaccinated at a pharmacy, according to NPA consumer data, and record numbers have done so in recent years.

‘Community pharmacy is now firmly established as a key provider of NHS flu jabs,’ she said.

‘The convenience of the community pharmacy offer makes it the first choice for many, especially given the network’s reach in deprived areas.

‘By protecting individuals from this nasty illness, pharmacies are also helping to limit hospital admissions and other pressure on the health and care system,’ she added.

In the week leading up to 12 January, there were 5,263 people in hospital with flu and 349 patients in critical care with the virus – around 5% more than the previous week.

These numbers were much greater than the numbers of hospital inpatients with the flu during the pandemic, NHS England said.

NHS director of vaccinations and screening, Steve Russell, and health and social care secretary Steve Barclay urged those eligible for a flu vaccination, in particular pregnant women, to take it up.

Those eligible for the flu jab are:

  • People aged 50 and over
  • Those aged between six months and 49 years with a specified health condition
  • some secondary school-aged children
  • Two and three-year-olds
  • Pregnant women
  • Primary school-aged children
  • Those in care homes
  • People who are carers, as set out in the Green Book
  • Frontline healthcare workers under occupational health schemes
  • Frontline social care staff who do not have access to occupational health schemes
  • Household contacts of people with weakened immune systems.

Last year, primary care staff were included in the NHS flu scheme and were eligible for a free jab, but this year NHS England said that it did not have the funding to offer community pharmacy staff flu vaccinations on the NHS.