The flu jab has been deemed more important than ever this winter. While the nation continues to combat Coronavirus, the NHS are now advising people to to protect against the double danger of COVID-19 and the flu.
Recent research carried out by the NHS, has shown people are at risk of catching both infections at the same time, resulting in serious and deadly consequences.
Who is offered the flu vaccine in England?
Although we know a vaccine for Coronavirus has not yet been developed, more people are being offered a free flu jab this year – with carers, those in care and anyone over 50-years old in England all included. This comes as Public Health England looked at COVID-19 illnesses throughout the first quarter of 2020, and almost 20,000 hospital patients were at risk of death by flu and Coronavirus, compared to those who only had the new virus.
Flu-season isn’t something to take lightly; every year the flu kills around 11,000 people in England and hospitalises many more. Those at high-risk from transmitting flu, are more at risk from COVID-19.
A number of people throughout England will now be offered the flu vaccine free of charge. These include:
- People who were required to self-isolate from COVID-19 (and anyone they live with)
- Those living with medical conditions such as diabetes and asthma
- Pregnant women
- Children between 2 and 12
- Adults over 50
- Health and social care staff
- Those living within a care setting
- People who provide care for an elderly or disabled person
Prof Jonathan Van-Tam, the deputy chief medical officer for England, said: “Flu can be deadly and it is easily spread in children and adults. The vaccine is the best way to protect yourself from becoming ill with the flu, especially if you are in a vulnerable group.
“This winter with Covid still circulating, and the increased risk to life if you are ill with both viruses simultaneously, it is even more vital to get the free jab as soon as you can.”
What about everyone else – those who aren’t eligible?
You might now be asking; what about everyone else? Well, people who are not eligible for the free flu vaccine, can pay for one at a local pharmacy and some supermarkets – although; there is limited availability while stocks are prioritised to those who need it most.
For example; Boots have temporarily suspended bookings for anyone under the age of 65.
It is still unclear how bad the flu virus might be this year. Naturally, some years are worse than others, but experts have said this year, people need to be more cautious than usual.
Like COVID-19, the flu is a viral infection which is passed on by coughs, sneezes and droplets in the air. Continuing to practice social-distancing, wearing masks and regular hand-washing can help to reduce the spread of both infections.
Is there a shortage of the flu vaccine?
GP surgeries across England recently announced they were waiting for up to a month for supplies, to administer the flu vaccine to their at-risk patient.
The shortage will mean that for those now being offered the vaccine for free from the NHS, will have to wait until those with a greater medical need have first received the vaccine. “While we’re most concerned about the at-risk groups such as the elderly, people with long-term conditions and pregnant women, it’s also frustrating that people in the 50-64 age group are coming forward in good faith, yet face being turned away,” Professor Martin Marshall, chair of the Royal College of GPs said in an open-letter to the health secretary.
Following the open letter, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “There is no national shortage of the flu vaccine; there are enough doses for 30-million people to be vaccinated throughout England.
“The vaccine is already being delivered to the at-risk groups, and this will continue throughout the winter months. There is still time for the eligible people to get their vaccine.”
What is the solution? If you’re looking to receive a flu vaccination this year; you must book in advance, whether it is with your doctor, pharmacy or supermarket. This is to ensure the vaccine is available, and to control the number of people in the area at one time.
How to tell if you have both the flu and COVID-19
Naturally, people will want to know the symptoms for both the flu and COVID-19 as we battle both this year. Although both infections have similar symptoms such as a high fever, coughing and fatigue, health officials have found some subtle differences between the two.
COVID-19 – unlike the flu – causes you to lose your taste and smell, which experts have now identified as a hallmark of the disease. The best way to protect against contracting both at the same time, according to the health professionals, is to take a flu jab.
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