Get flu and Covid jabs to ease pressure on NHS this winter, Health Secretary says

Friday, 8th October 2021, 7:28 am
Updated Friday, 8th October 2021, 9:31 am
Health Secretary Sajid Javid is urging people to have their flu and Covid-19 booster vaccines to help ease pressure on the NHS this winter (Photo: Shutterstock)

Health Secretary Sajid Javid is urging people to have their flu and Covid-19 booster vaccines to help ease pressure on the NHS this winter.

Experts recently predicted that the two viruses could push the health service to breaking point over the winter period.

The Government has launched the biggest flu programme in the NHS’s history, with more than 35 million people in England eligible for a free vaccine.

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Covid booster jabs are also now being rolled out, which must be given no earlier than six months after a second dose of any Covid-19 vaccine, according to guidance from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

Experts are calling on people to take up the offer of a flu and/or Covid booster when the NHS contacts them and not to delay having either jab.

More than 80% of people aged 65 and over had their flu jab last year, with the NHS aiming to reach at least 85% of this group this flu season.

It also hopes to reach at least 75% of people with underlying health conditions, at least 75% of pregnant women and at least 70% of eligible children.

All frontline health and social care workers will also be offered a flu jab, with an ambition that at least 85% will accept.

People can book their free NHS flu vaccine via pharmacies or they can wait for their GP surgery to contact them.

Those eligible for a Covid-19 booster jab are being told to wait until they are contacted, but health and social care workers can book one online via the NHS website.

Those not eligible for a free flu jab can also pay for a dose at pharmacies.

'This year we are rolling out the largest flu vaccine programme in our history'

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: “This year we are rolling out the largest flu vaccine programme in our history, alongside the new Covid-19 booster vaccine rollout; both are important to provide vital protection not only to yourself, but also your loved ones while also helping to ease pressure on the NHS.

“The Covid-19 vaccine programme is a fantastic example of how successful vaccination programmes can be – with around 130,000 lives saved.

“It is vital we continue that incredible progress with all those eligible ensuring they get both their flu and Covid-19 booster injections as soon as they are invited.”

England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said: “Not many people got flu last year because of Covid-19 restrictions, so there isn’t as much natural immunity in our communities as usual.

“We will see flu circulate this winter; it might be higher than usual and that makes it a significant public health concern.

“Covid-19 will still be circulating and with more people mixing indoors, sadly some increases are possible.“For the first time we will have Covid-19 and flu co-circulating. We need to take this seriously and defend ourselves and the NHS by getting the annual flu jab and the Covid-19 booster when called.

“Both these viruses are serious: they can both spread easily, cause hospitalisation and they can both be fatal. It is really important that people get their vaccines as soon as they can.”