Brits are being urged to get their flu jab ahead of Christmas in a bid to maximise protection against winter viruses.
The government is calling on people to come forward for the vaccine, with Health Secretary Sajid Javid warning “don’t delay”.
What has the government said?
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), the government agency responsible for public health protection, is pushing for those who are eligible to have the flu jab by December 10 to allow the vaccine to take full effect before the festive season.
The UKHSA is pushing for pregnant women and those with underlying health conditions to come forward in particular, along with people from a black Caribbean or black African background.
This is following data which suggests these groups have the lowest uptake of the vaccine.
The health agency has warned that people with underlying health conditions are 11 times more likely to die if they catch flu compared to healthy adults, while pregnant women are also at an increased risk of serious complications.
Uptake among over 65s is currently above the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommended threshold of 75%, but the UKHSA is hoping to increase that number.
Mr Javid said: “Getting your winter vaccines, whether that is your flu jab if eligible or your booster jab, is one of the most important things people can do for yourself and your family this winter.
“Record numbers of people took up the offer of a free flu vaccine last year and the programme is expanding even further this year, with a record 35 million people in England eligible.
“Don’t delay, book your flu vaccine as soon as possible.”
Who is eligible for a free flu jab?
The following groups of people are eligible to receive free flu in 2021 to 2022:
- all children aged 2 to 15 (but not 16 years or older) on 31 August 2021
- those aged six months to under 50 years in clinical risk groups
- pregnant women
- those aged 50 years and over
- those in long-stay residential care homes
- close contacts of immunocompromised individuals
- frontline health and social care staff employed by:
- a registered residential care or nursing home
- registered domiciliary care provider
- a voluntary managed hospice provider
- Direct Payment (personal budgets) and/or Personal Health Budgets, such as Personal Assistants.
Those who are eligible will be contacted by their GP surgery to book an appointment.
It is also possible to book the jab through a pharmacy, such as Boots or Lloyds, a hospital appointment, or a midwifery service if you are pregnant.
Children are offered a quick and painless nasal flu spray and parents can book an appointment at their child’s GP surgery for two and three-year-olds. School children will receive their flu vaccine at school.
Dr Conall Watson, consultant epidemiologist at the UK Health Security Agency, said: “The threat of flu has not gone away, it can cause serious illness and be fatal.
“Flu vaccination saves lives.
“If you are eligible, you don’t have to wait to be called up, book your flu vaccine as soon as possible to help protect yourself and family this Christmas.”
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