Health and beauty retailer and pharmacy chain Boots has suspended all bookings through its website for the winter flu jab due to 'unprecedented demand'.

The announcement, which was made by the company on Thursday, September 24, comes amid fresh concerns of a possible shortage in flu jabs nationwide.

What have Boots said?

A message to customers on the Boots booking site states: "Due to unprecedented demand for flu vaccinations this year and stock availability we have had to suspend bookings.

"We are working hard to acquire additional stock of the flu vaccine so that we are able to make appointments available again."

The suspension of the seasonal flu jab service applies to bookings for those of all ages.

Customers have been urged to sign up via the Boots website to be notified once the booking system reopens.

Chester and District Standard: A screenshot from the Boots website on Thursday evening (September 24).A screenshot from the Boots website on Thursday evening (September 24).

According to LBC, Boots paused bookings earlier this week in order to 'monitor stock levels', before the chain decided to completely halt the service on Thursday (September 24).

No further details have been revealed as to when the service will resume across the UK.

Who is eligible for the flu jab?

This year people across England who are eligible for the flu vaccine include:

  • Primary school children and Year 7 pupils will be offered the flu nasal spray in schools and two and three-year-olds will be offered the vaccine through their GP.
  • Those age 65 and over, people with long-term health conditions and pregnant women will be offered the vaccine through their GP or pharmacy.
  • Household contacts of people who were instructed to ‘shield’ during the first wave of the pandemic.
  • Health and social care workers who have direct contact with the people they care for.
  • Once the first at risk groups have been contacted, the vaccine programme will also be rolled out to include people over the age of 50.

Flu vaccination programme expanded for 2020

People should “not be complacent” over flu, experts have said as new research has shown dire consequences of co-infection of flu and Covid -19.

Those infected with both flu and Covid-19 have a serious increased risk of death, Public Health England (PHE) said.

Officials warned that both influenza and Covid-19 could be circulating at the same time as they urged people who are eligible to get vaccinated.

The flu vaccination programme has been expanded this year so more people than ever will be eligible for a vaccine – up to 30 million people in England.

It is hoped that a new campaign will encourage those who are eligible to accept their invitation when it is sent out.

The campaign has been launched as a new study showed that during the first peak of the pandemic, people who were infected with both the new coronavirus and flu had a significantly higher risk of death.

While the numbers were small, the risk of death was nearly six times greater among those co-infected compared to the general population.

The risk of death was also higher compared to being infected with Covid-19 alone.

PHE researchers analysed data in almost 20,000 people who were tested for both Covid-19 and flu between January 20 and April 25.

Fifty eight were identified as having ‘co-infection’ of the two viruses.

Overall 43 per cent of people with co-infection died compared to 27 per cent of those who tested positive for Covid-19 alone.

Those who died “tended” to be older, PHE said.

Flu usually kills around 11,000 people each year in England and many more are hospitalised.

People more susceptible to the effects of flu are also more at risk from Covid-19, officials said.

Three of England’s most senior health officials have implored eligible people to get vaccinated when they get their invitation.

In previous years, the rates of people getting their flu jab have been low among some groups.

PHE’s medical director Professor Yvonne Doyle, said: “We’re encouraging anybody who is eligible to accept their flu vaccination this year, particularly with the winter we’re going to face.

“People still think that the flu is just like a cold. It’s not. The flu is an extremely unpleasant condition.

“If you’re in a risk group, it can be really dangerous, and it can kill you.

“The vaccine is good, it’s safe, and it does protect people. So it’s worth having it.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “This year more than ever, it’s vital that those eligible for the flu jab get it this winter so you can protect yourself, your family and the NHS.

“We’re pulling out all the stops to prepare for this uniquely challenging winter and we have enough vaccines for 30 million people this year, more than we’ve ever done before.

“With the simultaneous risk of flu and Covid-19, make sure you get your flu jab if you’re eligible, don’t gather in groups larger than six and remember ‘Hands Face Space’ so we can look after each other.”