With flu and Covid both on the horizon, Director of Public Health for Liverpool, Matthew Ashton urges those who are eligible for a free flu vaccine and a Covid-19 booster vaccine to get protected as soon as possible.
“We are expecting a difficult winter with a lot of respiratory illness due to viruses like flu and Covid. These viruses are unpredictable in terms of timing and quantity, but we know that they will threaten our health at some point this winter. We are particularly concerned about those who are at higher risk of serious illness because of their age, underlying medical conditions or vulnerability due to pregnancy.
We are predicting an early wave of flu, in a similar way to Australia, who have had high levels of flu circulating over their winter (our summer). The most common flu strain currently circulating globally is H3N2 which can cause particularly severe illness.
The natural immunity of the population to flu is lower this winter, due to low levels for the last couple of years. This was because people mixed less last winter and so, they were less exposed to flu, and did not build up their own immunity.
It is really important that young children take up the flu vaccine this winter as most young children will have no natural immunity at all to flu as a result of them not being exposed to it in their young lives so far. All children aged 2 and 3 (age on 31 August) are eligible for the nasal spray through their GP practice, and all primary school and some secondary school- aged children will be able to get the flu nasal spray through school.
Flu vaccination is available through GP practices and pharmacies for the highest priority people first. This includes everyone aged 65 or over, pregnant women, people of any age with underlying medical conditions, carers and those who live with someone with a weakened immune system. You can already contact your GP or pharmacist to book your flu jab.
From mid-October, people aged 50 to 64 will also be able to access the flu vaccine.
We are also already seeing signs that Covid is starting to increase again. Modelling data for Covid is forecasting peaks for Covid infections in early November and then again in March 2023 – with potential pressures on our health care systems peaking in December.
Catching flu and Covid at the same time increases the risk of severe illness, and that’s why its important that everyone who is eligible takes up both the Covid booster and the flu jab.
The Covid autumn booster vaccination started earlier this month.Anyone aged 65 or over, pregnant women, people of any age with an underlying medical condition, carers and those who live with someone with a weakened immune system can now book their autumn Covid booster through the national Covid vaccine booking system.
There is no need to wait for an invitation from your doctor to book you Covid booster. You can book now at www.nhs.uk/covid-vaccination or phone 119.
All adults aged 50 to 64 will also become eligible to book their Covid booster later in the autumn.
And of course, if you have missed out a previous Covid vaccine dose, you don’t have to wait. You can book straightway through the national booking system.
The autumn Covid booster is a bivalent vaccine– meaning it will provide protection against both the original Covid strain, and the newer Omicron variant. The bivalent vaccines are made and delivered the same way as the many previous Covid vaccines, and with over a million now delivered in Liverpool alone, people can have real confidence that they’re safe and very effective.
Vaccination in general, and specifically Covid and flu vaccines have saved many lives. We are fortunate to have these vaccines to protect against serious illness. It is important we do not become complacent – as we will again see flu and Covid rising this winter. With so many winter challenges facing us this year, our health-services will also be under extreme pressure.
I strongly recommend that anyone who is eligible for a free flu or Covid vaccine should protect themselves as soon as possible. It is the best way to protect yourself from these viruses. If you’re unsure of your eligibility, use the table below to check.
It is also important to prevent spread of viruses by letting fresh air in if meeting indoors, or meet outside; considering whether to wear a mask in crowded or enclosed public spaces, by covering your nose and mouth when you cough and sneeze, and by washing your hands properly.
Be safe this winter, get vaccinated”
Difficult or negative experiences can impact our mood and the type of thoughts we experience. If you are feeling overwhelmed visit https://kindtoyourmindliverpool.co.uk/– the website will guide you through steps you can take to protect and improve your wellbeing.
Get your flu vaccine
Get your Covid vaccine
Aged 65 or over Pregnant
Any age with an underlying medical condition
A carer living with someone with a weakened immune system
Contact your GP practice or pharmacist now to book your flu vaccine.