With Covid-19 and flu in co-circulation with no social distancing measures in place for the first time this winter, local health leaders are encouraging people in at-risk groups to boost their immunity by taking up the offer of a free flu vaccine as soon as possible.
In an average year, thousands of people across the country can be hospitalised or even die from the flu. This winter, there could be a significant flu surge coinciding with continuing or rising Covid-19 cases.
This is due to colder weather which favours transmission, darker nights which means increased social contact indoors where it is less well-ventilated, and expected lower immunity to flu due to lower levels in circulation last winter.
Dr Geeta Iyer, local GP and Clinical Lead for Primary Care Development at NHS Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire CCG, said:
Flu is a serious illness every year and can cause our most vulnerable people to become seriously ill, and even die.
The flu vaccine is offered for free to all people who are most at-risk from becoming seriously ill, should they catch flu. This includes people aged 50 and over, people who are pregnant, and people with certain health conditions such as asthma or diabetes.
It’s the most effective protection against the flu virus, and also helps to stop the spread of flu between our communities.
This year there is an even greater urgency because of the presence of Covid-19. If you get flu and Covid-19 at the same time, you are at a much higher risk of becoming seriously ill, so it’s vital that vulnerable groups get their free flu jab as soon as possible.
Many people who are eligible for a free flu vaccine will also be eligible for a Covid-19 booster, but will have to wait until six months after they’ve received their second dose of their Covid-19 vaccination. Sometimes, both Covid-19 and flu vaccinations can be given during the same appointment, but Dr Geeta Iyer is encouraging people to take up either appointment as soon as you can.
While it is good news that both vaccines can be given at the same time, we’re encouraging people to take up either vaccine as soon as they’re offered it, rather than waiting to have them at the same time. We know Covid-19 and flu are now both in circulation, so it’s important for people to get protection from these vaccines as soon as possible – which can take around two weeks after the vaccination.
This year, the flu vaccination programme among children has been expanded and now includes children aged between 2 and 3 years old (born between 1 September 217 and 31 August 2019), all school aged children up to year 11, and children aged between 2 and 17 with long-term health conditions. Vaccines are provided at local GP practices for children aged between 2 and 3 or within schools if children are school aged. Parents will receive a letter about the vaccinations, which they will need respond to in order to provide consent.
Adult flu vaccinations are available through your GP practice and local community pharmacy. If you are pregnant, you can also receive a flu vaccine through your local maternity service.