People in the Midlands are being urged to have their flu and COVID-19 booster vaccines ahead of the first winter where COVID-19 and flu circulate fully at the same time.
Experts are predicting that there could be a significant flu surge this winter coinciding with continuing or rising COVID-19 cases. This is due to colder weather which favours transmission, darker nights which mean increased social contact indoors where it is less well ventilated, and expected lower immunity to flu due to lower levels in circulation last winter.
A recent survey conducted by Opinium seeking views from 3,000 participants found that nearly one third (32%) were unaware that flu and COVID-19 can circulate at the same time, over a quarter (26%) did not know that flu can be fatal and over half (55%) underestimated the number of people who die from flu in an average year in England (which is approximately 11,000).
The government has launched its Winter Vaccination campaign film highlighting how much people are underestimating the combined threat of flu and COVID-19.
More than 500 vaccination centres, GP surgeries, hospital hubs and community pharmacies across the Midlands are offering flu and COVID-19 vaccinations to offer vital protection against illness this winter.
Alison Tonge, the NHS England and NHS Improvement director responsible for overseeing the vaccination programme across the Midlands, said:
“Both these viruses are serious: they can both spread easily, cause hospitalisation and they can both be fatal. So, it’s vital that people in the Midlands get their vaccines as soon as they are invited.
“For the first time we will have COVID-19 and flu co-circulating. 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.”
More than 300,000 COVID-19 booster vaccinations have been given in the Midlands so far. People who are eligible, including all health and care staff, care home residents, people at risk, carers and people over the age of 50 will be invited by their GP or by the NHS as six months elapses after their second vaccine. Everyone is encouraged to book their appointment or attend a walk-in site as soon as they receive their invitation.
Flu vaccinations have already begun with many thousands of people coming forward. This year, people who are eligible include those aged 50 plus, two and three-year olds, school children up to year 11, pregnant women, health and care staff, people who are at risk and households of immunosuppressed people. Anyone eligible can get their jab through their GP or by going to a community pharmacist.
To date, 6.97 million people in the Midlands have had two doses of COVID-19 vaccine, and if people have been putting off their first dose, they can make a booking at Book or manage your coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination – NHS (www.nhs.uk) or find a walk in site at Find a walk-in coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination site – NHS (www.nhs.uk).