Despite the challenges of the pandemic, the region’s NHS vaccinated record numbers of people against flu last winter and it’s now gearing up to do the same again this year.
The region’s NHS is appealing to the public, and health and care staff, to ‘DoYourBit’ and get the free flu vaccine this year – with fears that that flu virus is set to return and will be circulating alongside COVID-19 and other viruses.
Health experts are concerned this year could be one of the worst for flu infections because immunity has dropped off due to measures designed to control the spread of COVID-19. It doesn’t mean flu has gone away. Mathematical modelling indicates the flu season could be up to 50% larger than typically seen. It is also possible it will begin earlier than usual. Flu really is the last thing people need on top of everything else.
So the NHS is asking people of the North East and North Cumbria to pull together and do their bit by getting their free flu vaccine. And they are reminding people that flu can be very serious and can even kill – it spreads easily so you can be putting others at risk. Not only that but if you get flu and coronavirus at the same time you’re more likely to be more seriously ill.
Those most at risk from flu are also more vulnerable to COVID-19. Yet the best protection – one vaccine in the arm – is easy to get, it works and is free for more people than ever before. The NHS is now pulling out all the stops to deliver what will be its biggest flu vaccination programme – with an estimated 1.5 million people eligible for a free flu jab.
At the same time, COVID-19 boosters are being offered for those who had their last vaccine more than six months ago, and fall into the ‘at-risk’ groups. With people being reassured that it’s perfectly safe to have both vaccines at the same time if you are offered them together.
The flu vaccination programme has been extended to include secondary children from years seven to year 11. That means all children aged two to 15 can get a free flu vaccine. The offer for 50 to 64 year olds will also continue this year as we know hospitalisation from COVID-19 also increases from the age of 50.
While record numbers of people came forward for their flu vaccine last year – health chiefs say uptake still remains low in some areas – meaning many people are still at risk of becoming seriously ill – such as those with medical conditions, children aged two -three, pregnant women, carers and care workers. Just like the COVID-19 vaccine has reduced the risk of serious illness and hospitalisation. It’s the same for flu – get the vaccine and you will reduce your risk of becoming seriously ill.