Those who are eligible for the free flu vaccine and COVID-19 booster job are urged to book their appointments as soon as possible in a new film campaign launched today [Friday 8 October] aims to help people give themselves and their loved ones the best possible protection this winter.
The new film features media doctors Dr Amir Khan, Dr Dawn Harper and Drs. hospitalization.
The campaign is being launched as new research released today suggests that adults in the UK are severely underestimating the combined threat of COVID-19 and flu this winter.
There may be a significant flu increase this winter that coincides with ongoing and increasing COVID-19 cases. This is due to colder weather that promotes transmission, dark nights that mean increased social contact within where it is less well ventilated, and expected lower immunity to flu due to lower levels in circulation last winter.
A recent survey looking for prospects of 3,000 participants found that almost a third (32%) were unaware that flu and COVID-19 could circulate simultaneously, more than a quarter (26%) did not know that flu was fatal and more than half may be (55%) underestimated the number of people dying from influenza in an average year in England (that is around 11,000).
Even those who considered a high risk for COVID-19 had a low awareness of the potential dangers. Nearly a quarter of those over 50 (24%) and 29% of those with long-term health conditions, (who are a priority group for the COVID-19 booster and a eligible group for the flu vaccine), were unaware that flu and COVID -19 could circulate simultaneously. More than a third (37%) of pregnant women who are eligible for a vaccine against aggravation were also unaware that you could still catch the flu if you had the COVID-19 vaccine.
Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Sajid Javid said:
This year we are launching the largest flu vaccine program in our history, in addition to the new release of COVID-19 booster vaccine; both are important to provide vital protection not only for yourself but also your loved ones, while also helping to reduce pressure on the NHS.
The COVID -19 fax program is a fantastic example of how successful vaccination programs can be – with some 130,000 lives saved. It’s vital that we continue this incredible progress with all those eligible to ensure they get both their flu and COVID-19 booster injections as soon as they are invited. “
The study showed some misunderstandings of flu in particular, with about one in ten (9%) saying they thought vaccination against COVID-19 would protect them against flu. More than one in ten (13%) also believed with the statement that flu is ‘a disease of the past’, with another in five (20%) who did not know or were not sure that flu is spread by cough, sneezing and can live on hands and surfaces – equal to COVID -19.
Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, said:
Not many people got the flu last year due to COVID-19 restrictions, so there is not as much natural immunity in our communities as usual. We will see flu circulating this winter; it can be higher than normal and that makes it a major concern for public health.
COVID-19 will still be circulating and with more people mixing inside, some increases are unfortunately possible. For the first time, we will co-circulate COVID-19 and influenza. We need to take this seriously and defend ourselves and the NHS by getting the annual flu shot and the COVID-19 booster when called upon.
Both of these viruses are serious: they can both spread easily, cause hospitalization, and they can both be fatal. It is really important that people get their faxes as soon as possible. “
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 the COVID-19 booster and flu vaccine, if eligible.
Vaccination against both viruses will not only help protect us and our loved ones, but will also help protect the NHS from possible tensions this winter. “
Now that people are more able to socialize with far fewer restrictions in place compared to last year, vaccines provide vital protection to the public, by protecting individuals and the environment.
Up to an estimated 131,300 lives have been saved so far by the COVID -19 vaccine – and up to 24.3 million infections have occurred. The flu vaccine and COVID-19 booster vaccines offer the best protection against these life-threatening viruses.
Despite low awareness of the threat of both influenza and COVID-19 this winter, survey findings showed that vaccine confidence levels were still high with more than 8 in 10 (83%) of those double-vaccinated saying they had it COVID-19 booster vaccine would get as offered and two in three (66%) of all adults in England who said they would get the flu jab.
After restrictions were put in place to protect the public against COVID-19 last Christmas, the main incentives mentioned by people in the new survey included the desire to be with family this Christmas, with two out of five (41% ) who cited this as a reason to get the COVID-19 booster vaccine and nearly a quarter (24%) for flu.
NHS deputy vaccination program leader Dr Nikki Kanani said:
The NHS COVID-19 vaccine program, the largest and most successful in NHS history, has protected millions of people and saved some 130,000 lives.
Influenza and COVID-19 cost both lives and the increased threat of the two deadly viruses this winter makes it even more important for people to stick to good habits like washing their hands regularly.
It’s important that everyone who qualifies comes forward for a flu vaccine and books in their booster as soon as they are invited – the vaccines are safe, effective and the best you can do for yourself and your loved ones this winter to protect.
Dr Amir Khan, NHS doctor and regular on ITV’s This Morning, said:
We are well aware of the threat of COVID-19, but we can not forget about flu which can also be fatal. Both viruses could take serious illness and hospitalize this winter.
Fortunately, we know that the best form of protection is to be vaccinated against both viruses and they are free for those who are eligible. “
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK said:
This year, it’s more important than ever to take up the offer of a grip piece and COVID-19 booster. Both diseases are fully capable of taking a terrible toll on an elderly person, but vaccination will keep you, and those around you, safe and well through the coming winter months.
We are so happy to live together and in a country that provides these potentially life-saving protections, please do not regret the opportunity to benefit from them when it comes. “
Those who are eligible for a COVID-19 booster vaccine should book as soon as they are invited, with about 30 million people eligible for a COVID-19 booster vaccine.
Those who are eligible for a free flu vaccine should come forward to get it as soon as possible. Last year, the free flu vaccine was offered to 30 million people, this year the program is being expanded again to the largest in history offering it to more than 35 million eligible people.
To check your suitability for the flu vaccine and COVID-19 booster vaccine or to find a service visit here
Qualifying people can make an appointment for their flu job at their GP practice or their local pharmacy. Those who are pregnant can ask for their free flu jab at their local maternity ward.
The campaign is also supported by a coalition of leading charities and health care professionals, including The Royal College of General Practitioners, The Royal College of Midwives, Asthma UK, The British Lung Foundation and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society.