THIS is UK Government advice relating to England only
The season of sneezes and sniffles is upon us. But this year, as well as bringing the so-called “super cold”, the onset of winter is likely to see a surge in flu alongside rising numbers of Covid-19 cases.
As we gather together for seasonal celebrations, there’s more risk of viruses passing from person to person. Last winter, lockdown meant we weren’t mixing as much indoors, and GPs saw hardly any cases of flu.
Now, they are bracing themselves for a wave of sufferers – which is why, if you’re eligible, you should do your bit and book a flu jab.
NHS workers and volunteers across the nation are pulling together to roll out the Covid-19 booster jab.
This third jab is different from the one already recommended in the primary course to those with severely weakened immune systems.
It is designed to top up protection for those who already had their two primary jabs (and if you haven’t done so yet, it’s strongly recommended that you do unless prevented by a health condition), since protection provided by the vaccine wanes after six months.
More than 6million people have had their booster shot.
If you’re eligible, it’s the best way to protect yourself from Covid-19 this winter.
The NHS’s deputy lead for the Covid-19 vaccination programme, Dr Nikki Kanani, says: “The Covid-19 vaccination programme – the largest and most successful in NHS history – has saved around 130,000 lives.
“Both flu and Covid-19 cost lives, and the increased threat from these deadly viruses this winter makes it even more important that anyone eligible comes for a flu vaccine as soon as possible – and books their Covid-19 booster when invited.”
Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, says: “We are facing a challenging winter but we can all help ourselves and those around us by taking up the Covid-19 booster and flu vaccine, if eligible. Getting vaccinated against both viruses will not only help to protect us and our loved ones, but will also help protect the NHS from potential strain this winter.”
With the double threat of Covid-19 and flu in the air, it’s time to check if you’re eligible for a vaccine, and book it now. Both vaccines are safe and effective. Getting them is the best thing you can do this winter.
Flu: the lowdown
Who is eligible for a flu vaccination on the NHS?
- People aged 50 and over (including those who’ll be 50 by March 31, 2022).
- People with certain health conditions.
- Pregnant women.
- Frontline health or social care workers.
- Children aged 2 or 3 years on August 31, 2021.
- All primary school children (reception to year 6).
- All year 7 to year 11 children in secondary school.
- Children aged 6 months to 17 years with long-term health conditions.
- If your child is aged between 6 months and 2 years and has a long-term health condition that makes them at higher risk from flu, they’ll be offered a flu vaccine injection instead of the nasal spray.
Why didn’t we see much flu last winter?
This was due to a few things, including the measures put in place to help prevent Covid-19 spreading – such as social distancing and the wearing of face coverings – and a record number of people having their flu jab.
Because there were fewer cases of flu last season, we have less immunity against last year’s strains. But they could still be going around this year, alongside new strains. That’s why it’s so important to have your flu jab if you’re eligible.
How effective is the flu jab?
It gives the best protection against flu. If you do get flu after your vaccination, it’s likely to be milder and not last as long.
On an average year, around 11,000 people die from flu in England – and you could easily pass it on without knowing. Having the flu vaccination will also stop you from spreading flu to other people.
Where can I get the flu vaccine?
Adults can have the NHS free flu vaccine at their GP surgery, via a pharmacy, hospital appointment or through your midwifery service if you’re pregnant. Children aged 2 and 3 (by August 31, 2021) will get their nasal spray flu vaccine from the GP and eligible school children will get theirs in school.
For more information, visit nhs.uk/flujab
Who is eligible for a Covid-19 booster jab?
- People aged 50 and over.
- People aged 16 and over with a health condition that puts them at high risk of getting seriously ill from Covid-19.
- People who live and work in care homes.
- People aged 16 and over who are a main carer for someone at high risk from Covid-19.
- People aged 16 and over who live with someone who is more likely to get infections.
- Frontline health and social care workers.
Why do we need the Covid-19 booster?
It’s the best way to protect people who are likely to become very ill from Covid-19, as well as the people who care for them.
It will help reduce the number of people catching Covid-19 through the winter, and help protect the NHS. If eligible, you’ll be offered the booster vaccine at least six months after your second Covid-19 jab.
If you haven’t been contacted by the NHS within a week of reaching six months since your second jab, visit the National Booking Service or call 119 to book an appointment.
Where can I get my Covid-19 booster jab?
The NHS will let eligible people know how to get their booster. Thousands of locations across the country offer a Covid-19 booster.
You will be able to book an appointment at a vaccination centre, designated pharmacy or GP-led service, using the NHS Covid-19 national booking service or you can go to a walk-in service by using the NHS ‘Grab a Jab’ walk-in site finder.
You should book your booster jab as soon as you are invited to do so.
I’m pregnant – is it safe to get the Covid-19 and flu jabs?
Yes – both are safe for pregnant women, and it’s important to have both if eligible. There are more risks for you if you contract Covid-19 without the vaccine, and the flu vaccine will also help protect your unborn baby.
If you catch flu when pregnant, you’re at risk from complications such as bronchitis and it could cause your baby to be born prematurely, have a low birthweight and may even lead to stillbirth.
If you’re pregnant you can get a free flu vaccine from your GP, pharmacist or via your maternity service.
To check your eligibility for the flu vaccine and Covid-19 booster jab or to find a service, visit nhs.uk/wintervaccinations
‘For me, the jab is a must-have’
AUTHOR Brian Abram, 64, lives in Halifax with his wife Linda, 60. He’s looking forward to receiving his Covid-19 booster next week.
“Eight years ago, I broke my spine in a cycling accident, and I’m now a wheelchair user. Being paraplegic compromises my breathing – if I get anything on my chest, I can’t clear it – so any virus like Covid-19, which causes chest problems, is quite tricky for people like me.
“I was in the first wave of people who got the vaccine, receiving my first jab in January and my second one in April.
“Because of my clinical vulnerability, I was contacted via the NHS to make an appointment for my booster jab at a local pharmacy, which was easy to do online.
“I’m due to have it next week, and I can’t wait. For me, it’s a must-have, because I’m fearful of what the virus could do to me.
“A week after my booster Covid-19 vaccine, I’ll be getting my flu jab, because the thought of getting flu and coronavirus at the same time is a scary prospect.
“The Covid-19 vaccine might not stop you catching the virus altogether, but there is overwhelming evidence that it’s preventing serious illness.
“These vaccinations are not just to protect myself either. I’ve written a series of books called The Adventures of Grandad Wheels to raise money for charity, and I go into primary schools once or twice a week to read them to the children and talk about disability.
“I want to protect those who are vulnerable, too.”
‘It’s protection for me and my baby’
JESSICA Purchall, 25, runs a small online business that creates gifts and products for new parents. She lives in Exmouth, Devon, with husband John, 27, and daughter Adaline, two.
“I’m currently 24 weeks pregnant, so that makes me eligible for a flu jab on the NHS – and I’ll be booking it soon.
“As well as being pregnant, I’m worried that this year the flu will be a bit nastier. I don’t think I even had a cold last year, because I wasn’t interacting with people, but this year will be different. I know a lot
of people who are getting really awful colds, and flu can completely wipe you out.
I’ve never had it, but my mum has, and she couldn’t get out of bed for days. It’s not something you want to get.
“I don’t automatically get the flu jab every year, but if you’re pregnant and are told that something will be beneficial, you take it – you don’t want to do anything wrong. I’m going to be heavily pregnant over the winter months, so it’s just a bit of extra protection against the risks to both mum and baby.
“It’s reassuring to be on the eligible list, because you’re more immunologically vulnerable when you’re pregnant. It’s one less thing to worry about.
“My husband works for the ambulance service, so he’ll be getting his jab through work. I think anyone who can get the jab definitely should – not getting it is just not worth the risk.”
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