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Call for people with mental illness to be eligible for flu vaccination

The Centre for Mental Health, in partnership with Equally Well UK, has written to Nadhim Zahawi, minister of state for vaccinations, calling on the government to ensure that no one with a severe mental illness is excluded from the vaccination programme.

The letter welcomes the government’s pledge to embark on the biggest flu vaccination drive this autumn, and asks Mr Zahawi to ensure that anyone living with a severe mental illness is eligible for this vital intervention.

The letter said: 

‘The Covid-19 vaccination programme rightly placed people living with a severe mental illness in the same priority group as others with long-term conditions that made them vulnerable to the virus. This has enabled us to ensure that as many people as possible with a severe and enduring mental illness received their vaccinations quickly.

‘We welcome the government’s pledge to embark on the biggest ever flu vaccination drive this autumn, and as a part of that we ask you to ensure that anyone living with a severe mental illness is eligible for this vital intervention.

‘Until now, people with a severe mental illness have not been regarded as a priority group for flu vaccination. While some people are eligible because of other health conditions, many have been left out. This means that people whose health may be poor but whose needs have been overlooked are left at risk from flu.

grayscale photo of person holding textile

‘There is clear evidence that people with schizophrenia are 2.7 times more at risk of dying with Covid-19 than average. And there is evidence that people with psychosis are more likely to be hospitalised with all types of infectious disease.

‘We urge you to take action to ensure that no one with a severe mental illness is excluded from this year’s flu vaccination programme. This could be achieved by ensuring that people with a severe mental illness who were included within Priority Group 6 for the Covid-19 vaccination programme (‘clinically vulnerable’) are also eligible for flu vaccination this year. By taking this step, we can work with our NHS partners to encourage the highest possible uptake among a group whose physical health and life expectancy are extremely poor and too often overlooked.

‘The NHS has demonstrated that it can achieve extraordinary results with the Covid-19 vaccination programme. And we have worked closely with NHS England and others to ensure people with a severe mental illness are supported to receive their vaccinations. We want to continue to do that, and to ensure that this applies as much to flu as to Covid-19 before the winter.’

The Department of Health and Social Care has been contacted for comment.

For more information on flu vaccinations, check out these resources from Equally Well UK – there’s information for people living with a severe mental illness, for GPs & Pharmacists, and for mental health teams.

Photo Credit – Kaja Reichardt
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