The new adjuvanted flu vaccine could save 30,000 GP consultations per year, Public Health England has said.
The vaccine – available for the first time this winter – could also cut hospitalisations by 2,000 and prevent over 700 flu-related deaths in England.
Other changes to the flu vaccination programme this year mean that nasal spray vaccines will now be extended to cover primary school children in years 1 to 5.
PHE said they will eventually roll this out to all primary school children, in order to prevent a further 63,000 GP consultations each year, although they did not specify when this would happen.
Chief medical officer Professor Dame Sally Davies said the new adjuvanted vaccine ‘could prevent hundreds of deaths and save thousands of GP and hospital hours’.
PHE medical director Professor Paul Cosford added: ‘By introducing an enhanced flu vaccine for this age group [over 65s] they will be better protected as well as helping to reduce the spread of flu to those around them.
‘Further protection will be gained by offering flu vaccine to more children this year and giving a vaccine that provides protection against 4 strains of flu to all eligible people under the age of 65.’
GPs were first advised to use the adjuvanated vaccine for older patients in January, before GPs were told to freeze all orders while clinical evidence and cost-effectiveness data were re-evaluated.
NHS England ultimately advised GPs in February to offer the adjuvanted vaccine for everyone aged 65 and over and the quadrivalent vaccine for at-risk patients between the ages of 18 and 64.
However, GP surgeries will be receiving the adjuvanted trivalent flu vaccine in a phased process over the next three months, although this could see GPs turning patients away if they run out between deliveries.
This story was first published on our sister publication Pulse.