The Flu Vaccine Is 'More Important Than Ever' This Year – Here's Why

Public Health England is urging those eligible to get their free flu jab this winter – particularly those with underlying health conditions.

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The flu vaccine is “more important than ever” this year, says Public Health England (PHE), due to the risk from Covid-19.

While the vaccine can’t protect you against coronavirus, it’s thought if plenty of people have the flu jab this autumn, it’ll help the NHS cope better through the winter months – especially if there’s another spike in coronavirus cases.

People eligible for the free flu jab include: those aged 65 and over; pregnant women; primary school aged children, two and three-year-olds; and people with medical conditions like asthma, diabetes or heart failure.

Last year’s uptake of the vaccine was pretty low – below 45% – among the general population, while 72.4% of over-65s had one.

Speaking at a Royal Society of Medicine briefing on Covid-19, Professor Sian Griffiths, who co-chaired the Hong Kong inquiry into the 2003 Sars outbreak, said people should be “urged” to get the flu vaccine come winter, PA Media reported.

There’s already a big push in the US by the Centres for Disease Control (CDC), she said: “CDC are particularly pushing this message at the moment to raise the numbers of people who have the flu vaccine.

“If we can diminish the demands on the health service system by getting adequate levels of flu vaccination, should we have another surge of Covid, it just will help us to cope better.”

Dr Jamie Lopez Bernal, head of flu at PHE, pointed out that “people at high risk from Covid-19 are also those most at risk from flu”.

“Fortunately, we have a safe and effective vaccine for flu,” he said. “We are urging anyone who is eligible to take up the free offer this winter – particularly those with underlying health conditions and pregnant women where we tend to see lower uptake.

“Vaccination is more important than ever this year, it will help save lives.”

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The comments come after infectious diseases expert, Sir Jeremy Farrar, who sits on the government’s scientific advisory group for emergencies (Sage), said there could be a “very nasty rebound” of coronavirus in autumn or winter if the country does not use the next few months to prepare.

Anticipating demand, Boots is already allowing people to join a waiting list for flu and pneumonia vaccines from July. Appointments will be available from September to customers who are eligible for a free NHS flu jab, as well as those who want one as part of the private vaccination service.

Marc Donovan, chief pharmacist at Boots, echoed Prof Griffiths’ comments saying “it is more important than ever” for people to consider getting their flu jab this year.

“Although the flu vaccination does not prevent coronavirus in any way, both of these viruses have an impact on the respiratory system so if you can prevent the flu, it can be a huge benefit to your overall health including your immune system,” he said.

There’s a misconception that having a vaccine against pneumonia could provide some protection against coronavirus – this is not the case. That said, the World Health Organisation says that vaccination against respiratory illnesses is highly recommended to protect your health.