Kent’s health leaders are supporting calls by England’s top medics for people at risk of suffering from flu and Covid to ensure they get their free NHS vaccinations this winter.
A new country-wide marketing campaign urging millions of eligible people to get their flu and Covid booster vaccines to top up their immunity is underway, as almost 10 million people in England have already received their boosters.
Targeted communications for individuals with long term health conditions, pregnant women and ethnic minority communities, with a particular focus on those with low vaccine confidence, will also appear, and will include examples of where vaccine uptake rates have been low in the past.
Latest regional Covid data from the UK Health Security Agency has shown continued high rates of cases and hospitalisations in recent weeks. Cases of flu have also climbed quickly in the past week, indicating the season has started earlier than normal. This is leading to increased pressure on emergency departments with rates of hospitalisations and ICU admissions rising the fastest in children under five.
In addition to the NHS delivering the Covid-19 and flu vaccinations programmes, a new campaign has been launched in the South East of England this year which encourages people with lung and breathing problems to stay well this winter. ‘Protect Your Lungs’ features a number of interviews with patients living with respiratory issues such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary disease (COPD) in the hope of helping others with respiratory conditions.
Dame Eileen Sills, Chief Nurse at NHS Kent and Medway, said: “Flu and Covid can be very dangerous and even life threatening for some, particularly people with certain health conditions and pregnant women. Getting vaccinated is extremely important. Both vaccines are safe to have together and will help protect you from getting seriously ill. Please don’t wait – book now.”
As well as getting the vaccine, practising good hand hygiene by catching coughs and sneezes in a tissue, throwing it away and washing your hands after can help limit its spread – catch it, bin it, kill it.
Kent County Council’s Director of Public Health, Dr Anjan Ghosh is backing calls for eligible people to get the free jab. He said: “The flu and Covid vaccinations are the best defence against what can be serious illnesses. Both are highly infectious diseases and can lead to serious complications particularly for people with long term health conditions and older age groups, pregnant women and ethnic minority communities. We are supporting our health partners by urging residents to stay healthy this winter by getting the jabs.”
Residents can also find links for booking jabs and information to help keep themselves and their families well this winter at www.kent.gov.uk/winterhealth
Trish Mannes, Deputy Director for UKHSA South East said: “We want to keep everyone healthy and active this winter but both flu and COVID-19, which can cause serious illness and hospitalisation, will be circulating together. This along with lower levels of natural immunity following our reduced socialisation during the pandemic means it’s especially important to get vaccinated, especially if you’re in a higher risk group.
“Undoubtedly vaccination offers the best protection but as we enter flu season we’re also asking everyone in the South East to take some simple measures to help reduce spread, such as meeting in ventilated spaces and washing your hands more regularly.
“Across the South East, we’re already starting to see flu rates rise in some settings, chiefly schools and care homes due to people spending more time indoors as the weather outside turns colder and more autumnal. Of particular concern are the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions, so we’re encouraging anyone with symptoms of COVID, flu or any respiratory illness to think carefully about where they go and who they visit in order to avoid passing on any infection to those more vulnerable.”
For more information on how to keep you and your families well this winter, go to www.kent.gov.uk/winterhealth