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Urgent call for vaccine take up as experts predict flu and COVID-19 cases to rise this winter

Everyone who is eligible for a free flu vaccine and COVID-19 booster is being urged to take up the offer as soon as they are invited to do so.

It’s because cases of coronavirus are already beginning to rise across the UK, and in Devon, and natural immunity against flu is relatively low, because despite it being present last winter, coronavirus restrictions helped protect people from catching it.

People who are older or who have other health conditions that make them vulnerable, are at greatest risk this winter. And study results from early in the pandemic show that people who catch both flu and COVID-19 at the same time are around twice as likely to die, compared to those who only have COVID-19.

Steve Brown, Devon’s Director of Public Health, said:

“This is a clarion call for everyone in Devon, who is eligible for the free flu vaccine and the coronavirus booster, to come forward as soon as they are invited to do so.

“Taking up both the COVID-19 booster and flu jab is an essential form of protection against these respiratory viruses. “Vaccines are the best way for us to protect ourselves from serious illness this winter, and I urge everyone who is eligible, not to be complacent, and to take up the vaccines when invited to do so.”

Who can have the NHS flu vaccine?

At the moment, the flu vaccine is being given free on the NHS to adults who:

  • are 65 years old and over (including those who will be 65 by 31 March 2023)
  • have certain health conditions, such as asthma and diabetes
  • are pregnant
  • are in long-stay residential care
  • receive a carer’s allowance, or are the main carer for an older or disabled person who may be at risk if you get sick
  • live with someone who is more likely to get a severe infection due to a weakened immune system, such as someone living with HIV, someone who has had a transplant, or is having certain treatments for cancer, lupus or rheumatoid arthritis
  • are frontline health or social care workers

From mid-October, people aged 50 years old or over (including those who will be 50 years old by 31 March 2023) can also have a free NHS flu vaccine.

All primary school and some secondary school children are eligible for the flu nasal spray this year, which is usually given at school.

GP surgeries are also inviting children aged two and three years old (age on 31 August) for their nasal spray vaccination at their practices.

Where can I get the NHS flu vaccine?

If you’re eligible for a free flu vaccine, you can book an appointment at your GP surgery or a pharmacy that offers it on the NHS.

You may also receive an invitation to get vaccinated, but you do not have to wait for this before booking an appointment.

Everyone who is eligible for the free flu vaccine will be able to get it.

GP surgeries and pharmacies get the flu vaccine in batches throughout the flu season. If you cannot get an appointment straight away, ask if you can book one for when more vaccines are available.

Who can have the seasonal COVID-19 booster?

At the moment, those being prioritised for a seasonal booster dose (autumn booster) of the COVID-19 vaccine include people who are:

  • aged 65 years old or over
  • pregnant
  • aged 5 years old and over and at high risk due to a health condition or weakened immune system
  • aged 5 years old and over and live with someone who has a weakened immune system
  • aged 16 years old and over and a carer, either paid or unpaid
  • living or working in a care home for older people
  • a frontline health and social care worker

Other people, including those aged 50 to 64 years old who are not at higher risk, will be able to get the booster jab later in the autumn 2022.

Where can I get the seasonal COVID-19 booster?

To get a seasonal booster (autumn booster) dose you can:

You can have your seasonal booster (autumn booster) if it’s been at least 3 months since you had your previous dose.

If you have not had a 1st or 2nd dose of the COVID-19 vaccine yet, you should have them as soon as possible. If you have a severely weakened immune system you should get an additional primary dose before you get a booster.

If you have COVID-19, or symptoms of COVID-19 but have not had a test, you should wait until your symptoms are better before you get the vaccine. You should ideally wait 4 weeks (28 days) if you’re aged 18 or over or 12 weeks (84 days) if you are aged 5 to 17 years old. This starts from the date your symptoms started or from the date of a positive test, whichever was earlier.

Are you a frontline health or social care worker?

With winter just around the corner, and the expected rise in flu cases this year on top of the usual health and social care pressures, it’s vital that people working in the frontline roles come forward for their flu and COVID-19 booster vaccinations at the earliest opportunity, to protect themselves and those they care for.

The sector is facing a busy winter with a severe flu season predicted and COVID-19 still in circulation, and case numbers starting to rise again, so it is more important than ever that health and social care workers stay fit and healthy and protect themselves from illness.

So please, book a COVID-19 vaccination appointment online and speak to your GP or local pharmacy about getting your NHS flu vaccine.

Do you care for someone?

When caring for someone, you may worry about what would happen if you suddenly became ill. How would you cope? What impact would this have on the person you care for? 

Flu can force people to take to their bed for several days, and if the infection coincides with COVID-19 it can be life threatening, so as a carer, it would be extremely difficult for you to continue to look after someone else, which could be very distressing and potentially dangerous in some circumstances.

If you’re receiving Carer’s Allowance or are the main carer for an elderly or disabled person who may be put at risk if you became ill, you are eligible for a free flu jab on the NHS and the COVID-19 autumn booster.

Please get them as soon as you are offered as they are vital to protect yourself and those you care for, as well as help reduce hospitalisations during a time that will be especially busy for the NHS and social care services.

Book a COVID-19 vaccination appointment online or find a walk-in COVID-19 vaccination site. And speak to your GP or local pharmacy about getting your NHS flu vaccine.