Public Health England (PHE) officials have urged at-risk groups and care workers to get the flu jab after new research has suggested it can improve the powers of recovery in individuals infected with both traditional influenza and COVID-19.
As the summer comes to an end, it has been notified that both influenza and COVID-19 could be circulating at the same time and it is more important than ever to get the flu jab. Prime Minister, Boris Johnson is urging everyone to get the flu jab, with an aim to vaccinate 30 million people in the UK. This is double the 15 million who received the flu jab last year.
Between the months of January and April, 20,000 participants were tested for both flu and Covid-19. Of these 20,000 participants, fifty-eight were identified as having ‘co-infection’ of the two viruses.
The rate of deaths in people with co-infection was 43%, in comparison to 27% of those who tested positive for Covid-19 alone.
Public Health England stated that the majority of co-infection cases were in the elderly. It has been suggested that the flu jab can “save lives”, reducing the risk of co-infection.
Charities ask social care to drive uptake of flu vaccine
Public Health England has suggested that approximately 70% of acute respiratory illness outbreaks happen in care homes. Every year, there is an 80% seasonal winter surge in respiratory hospital admissions but with Covid-19, this could be far more. Throughout the pandemic, live-in care has been recommended as a safe alternative to a care home but precautions should always be put in place.
“The potential threat for both flu and COVID-19 to co-circulate this year is significant. Dual outbreaks would place extreme pressure on the health and social care system, not least because the symptoms of both viruses are virtually indistinguishable.” – British Lung Foundation
Alison Cook, director of external affairs at Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation, and chair of the Taskforce for Lung Health, stated: “The social care sector have already been devastated by the pandemic and we know how hard staff are working up and down the country.
“This winter could see the biggest test of our time. As many eligible people as possible need to get the flu jab to avoid a potential deadly tidal wave of respiratory conditions over the coming months which could overwhelm the NHS.”
Professor Yvonne Doyle, Medical Director at Public Health England also said:
“If you’re a frontline health or care professional, getting your flu jab is the most effective way to protect yourself and those you care for from what can be a serious and even fatal illness. This year, it is more important than ever to get your flu jab with COVID-19 still in circulation. Flu can require hospitalisation, which would add pressure on the NHS and social care when they may also be dealing with cases of COVID-19. Getting your flu jab is easy and takes just a few minutes, but it could save someone’s life.”
Who Is Eligible For The Flu Vaccine – National flu immunisation programme 2020-2021
The flu vaccine is given to people who:
- are 65 and over
- have certain health conditions
- are pregnant
- are in a 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’s at high risk from coronavirus (on the NHS shielded patient list)
- frontline health or social care workers
This year as part of the wider planning for winter, and subject to contractual negotiations, this season flu vaccination will be additionally offered to:
- household contacts of those on the NHS Shielded Patient List. Specifically, individuals who expect to share living accommodation with a shielded person on most days over the winter and therefore for whom continuing close contact is unavoidable.
- children of school Year 7 age in secondary schools (those aged 11 on 31 August 2020).
- health and social care workers employed through Direct Payment (personal budgets) and/or Personal Health Budgets, such as Personal Assistants, to deliver domiciliary care to patients and service users.
Further information for vaccinations for carers can be found here.
To find out if you are eligible for a free vaccination, please check the NHS website. Anyone is able to get the flu vaccine by simply booking with their local pharmacy and GP. For those who are not eligible for a free flu jab can pay around £12 at their local pharmacy or nearest Boots chemist.
Latest Covid-19 Government Guidance
In a recent statement, Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “This year more than ever, it’s vital that those eligible for the flu jab get it this winter so you can protect yourself, your family and the NHS.
“We’re pulling out all the stops to prepare for this uniquely challenging winter and we have enough vaccines for 30 million people this year, more than we’ve ever done before.
“With the simultaneous risk of flu and Covid-19, make sure you get your flu jab if you’re eligible, don’t gather in groups larger than six, and remember ‘Hands Face Space’ so we can look after each other.”
The latest Covid-19 guidance can be found on the gov site.
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