Kent residents are encouraged to get their flu vaccine as new Public Health England (PHE) research suggests that people infected with both flu and COVID-19 are more at risk of severe illness and death.
The nation’s senior medics – supported by local health and public health leaders – are calling on all eligible people to get vaccinated against flu, as cases between January and April this year show that the risk of death more than doubled for people who tested positive for both flu and COVID-19, compared to those with COVID-19 alone.
The research also found that those with co-infection of the two viruses were more at risk of severe illness. Most cases of co-infection were in older people and more than half of them died.
Flu is a serious condition that kills on average 11,000 people in England each year and hospitalises many more. Adults at high risk from flu are also most at risk from COVID-19 and the free vaccine is more important than ever, to help protect people in the South East from a double threat this winter.
This year, the programme is being expanded to help protect people from flu and ease pressure on the NHS and urgent care services.
The health system is working to provide the free flu vaccine to 30 million people, the highest number on record:
- All primary school children and, for the first time, Year 7 children will be offered the flu ‘nasal spray’ in schools to reduce community transmission. Two and three-year olds will be offered the vaccine through their GP.
- The most vulnerable, including adults aged 65 and over, those with long-term health conditions and pregnant women, will be offered the flu vaccine first through their GP or pharmacy.
- The flu vaccine will also be offered to household contacts of people on the NHS Shielded Patient List and all health and all social care workers who have direct contact with the people they care for.
- Once uptake has been maximised in the most at-risk groups, the newly eligible 50-64-year olds will be invited for vaccination later in the season. Anyone who is 50-64 years old with long-term health condition should be vaccinated earlier in the season, in line with all others in risk groups.
As part of England’s biggest ever flu campaign – alongside adverts across the media and posters in key locations such as GP surgeries, pharmacies and hospitals – eligible people will receive additional direct reminders prompting them to book their appointment, supporting the hard work of local GP practices and pharmacies in driving uptake among their registered eligible patients.
To help increase uptake in the social care sector, for the first time pharmacists will be able to vaccinate both residents and care home staff at the same time.
Vaughan Lewis, Medical Director for NHS England and NHS Improvement’s South East region said: “This year with both the flu virus and Covid-19 circulating flu immunisation is more important than ever to reduce infections, protect each other and protect the NHS.
“There is an expanded list of priority groups this year and we are offering the vaccine to children aged from 2 to 11, as well as those over the age of 65 and anyone with chronic illness including diabetes and weight problems. So, if you have a Body Mass Index of more than 40 or a chronic illness or learning disability, look after yourself and protect the NHS by having the flu jab.”
Flu vaccination clinics across the South East of England are underway this September and the NHS is encouraging anyone who is eligible for a free flu vaccination to book an appointment with their GP or pharmacist, as soon as they receive an invitation.
Dr Navin Kumta, Clinical Chair for NHS Kent and Medway CCG, said: “Flu is a highly infectious disease and can lead to serious complications if you have a long-term health condition. It really is important for patients who are eligible for the free vaccine to make sure they have the jab. The vaccine is the best way of protecting yourself, and your family, from contracting the flu virus and minimising any risk of more serious complications that might arise from infection.”
Dr Yvonne Doyle, Medical Director at Public Health England, said: “It is dangerous to dismiss influenza as ‘just’ the flu – it can be extremely serious and can lead to hospitalisation, permanent disability or even death.
“The flu vaccine is more important than ever, to help reduce transmission of flu and protect the nation from the double threat of flu and COVID-19. You may be offered it for the first time this year – it is important that you take up the offer to protect yourself and others.”
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, 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.”
Kent County Council Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Public Health, Clair Bell said: “We are supporting the NHS and health partners across Kent by urging residents to get the flu jab – it’s more important this year than ever that we all play a part to keep well and help to protect the rest of the community and reduce the demands on local NHS services by taking steps now.”
Vaccinations started in September and continue over the winter months, with appointments available throughout the season (so there is still plenty of time to book). Priority is given to those who are most at risk of flu. GP practices and pharmacies receive phased deliveries of the vaccine and flu clinics are scheduled to coincide with these deliveries. By staggering appointments over the winter months, we can help protect as many people as possible from flu.
Please note that if you are aged between 50 and 64 and are not in a clinical at risk group, the earliest you will be offered a flu vaccination is November. This is to ensure that those who are most at risk are vaccinated first. If you are aged 50 to 64 and are in a clinical at risk group which is eligible for the flu vaccination, for example you have a health condition which puts you at risk from the flu, you will be invited earlier.
If you are a household member or a carer of a shielded patient, you are eligible for the flu vaccination. Please contact your GP practice for more information or visit your local community pharmacy.
For parents/carers of two and three-year-olds, you should receive an invitation for your child to have the vaccination at their GP practice before the winter. If you haven’t heard by early November, contact the practice directly to make an appointment.
For primary school-aged children and those in Year 7 at secondary school, a vaccination session will be held at school during the autumn term. Your local healthcare team will contact you via the school.
Notes to editors:
Data on last year’s uptake rates for the South East at local authority level can be found here: