A potential ‘twindemic’ caused by both Covid-19 and the flu virus could occur this winter, with some made more vulnerable due to the cost of living crisis, experts have warned.
Tens of millions of people in the UK are being urged to get the flu and Covid vaccines as soon as possible amid concerns of a resurgence in flu infections combined with a major wave of coronavirus.
But there’s another factor this winter. Abbas Kanani, a pharmacist at Chemist Click, said the cost of living will also exacerbate a possible ‘twindemic’, with many people who would otherwise not qualify as being in the vulnerable category in fact being so now. As it may be difficult to identify these individuals, they may not qualify as being eligible for a free flu jab.
Mr Kanani explained that this time of year, along with “lower levels of natural immunity from last winter due to limited co-mixing”, has caused “a bit of a worry” as a “challenging winter” approaches.
The pharmacist, who has worked for several years in a patient facing role, said he believes that the cost of living crisis is a “major concern which appears to have been overlooked”, with many people trying to save money by reducing heating in homes, reducing meals or capping how much they spend on food, with it also being expensive to eat healthily.
“The earlier you get the jabs the better, especially if you are in the vulnerable category,” Mr Kanani added, as he said with both the flu and Covid in full circulation, there are “concerns”, so it is best to “protect yourself”.
Dr Susan Hopkins, the chief medical adviser at UKHSA, said there are “strong indications” the UK could be facing the threat of widely circulating flu, lower levels of natural immunity due to less exposure over the last three winters, and an increase in Covid-19 circulating, with “lots of variants that can evade the immune response”.
“This combination poses a serious risk to our health, particularly those in high-risk groups,” she added.
Who can get the vaccines?
About 33 million people in the UK are eligible for a free flu vaccine this autumn, including children being offered the nasal spray vaccine.
About 26 million of those who qualify for a free flu jab are also eligible for an autumn Covid booster.
Under NHS plans, these will be updated shots from Pfizer and Moderna, which target the original and Omicron variants.
Both vaccines are available for all over-50s, people at clinical risk, those living with immunosuppressed people, and frontline health and social care workers..Where possible, Covid and flu shots will be given at the same time.
Steve Russell, the NHS director for vaccinations and screening, said: “This winter could be the first time we see the effects of the so-called ‘twindemic’ with both Covid and flu in full circulation, so it is vital that those most susceptible to serious illness from these viruses come forward for vaccines in order to protect themselves and those around them.”
“If you have been offered a flu vaccination or Covid booster you should book in as soon as possible,” he added.