Stay healthy this winter with flu and Covid-19 booster vaccines.
The onset of winter brings colder weather and darker nights, which will inevitably mean we all meet friends and family indoors where it is less well ventilated.
This will increase the risk of virus transmission at a time when people up and down the country are likely to have a lower immunity to flu due to lower levels in circulation last winter.
year than last, behaving sensibly will be vital if we are to stay healthy and maintain all the freedoms that will allow us to have a fun-filled festive season.
There are a number of things everyone can do to stop the spread of Covid-19 or flu viruses in the coming months.
Chief among them is to make sure you are vaccinated, as Covid-19 and flu vaccines are the best protection we have against these life-threatening viruses. Those who are unvaccinated should come forward for their first and second doses, while those who have had their second Covid-19 vaccine at least six months ago, and are in one of the eligible groups, will be invited for a booster jab.
This is particularly important when you consider that approximately 11,000 people in England die from flu in an average year. Covid-19 vaccines have already saved tens of thousands of lives, and will save many more so long as people get their boosters (the latest data shows that protection provided by the vaccine falls after six months, particularly for older adults and at-risk groups).
Dr Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, said: “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.”
Those who can have the Covid-19 booster vaccine (six months after their second dose) are: anyone 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 are pregnant and in one of the eligible groups; people who live and work in care homes; people aged 16 and over who live with someone who is more likely to get infections (such as someone who has HIV, has had a transplant or is having certain treatments for cancer, lupus or rheumatoid arthritis); and frontline health and social care workers.
Those eligible for the flu vaccine are as follows: anyone aged 50 and over (including those who will be 50 by 31 March 2022); people with certain health conditions; pregnant women; carers; frontline health or social care workers; children aged two or three on 31 August 2021; all primary school children (reception to year 6); all year 7 to year 11 children in secondary school; and children aged 2 to 17 years with long-term health conditions.
While most people have two doses as part of their first course and many are then eligible for a booster, vaccination experts have recommended three doses in the ‘primary course’ for people who have a severely weakened immune system, to get a good level of protection from Covid-19.
The vaccine is currently being delivered from a range of settings – such as walk-in and mobile vaccination sites – to make accessing the vaccination offer as convenient as possible, particularly for our deprived and underserved communities.
As with the Phase 1 and 2 roll-out, booster jabs will be available at a range of locations. Those eligible for a Covid-19 booster vaccine should book as soon as they are invited.
Helen Baimbridge, 44, who lives with her husband Dave and five-year-old son in Haddenham, Buckinghamshire, is clinically extremely vulnerable and has had both her Covid-19 booster and flu jabs.
“I was very happy to have my [Covid] vaccine booster given that those who are immune-suppressed may have a less than adequate response to the vaccine, and that vaccine efficacy diminishes after six months,” she said.
“I know people who've been double vaccinated [first and second course of the Covid-19 vaccine], that have then become Covid positive and haven't had any symptoms, and I know people that have been double vaccinated and become Covid positive and had shocking symptoms, so for me, because we don't know what the disease will do in each individual person ... it makes absolute sense to give yourself as much protection as you can.”
This winter, underestimating the combined threat of Covid-19 and flu could cost lives, so make sure you, your family and your friends are protected.
To check your eligibility for the flu vaccine and Covid-19 booster vaccine or to find a service visit nhs.uk/wintervaccinations.