This year, 30 million people will be offered a free flu vaccine to try and limit the combined negative impact of coronavirus and other flu-like viruses on the NHS. But, how will be offered the vaccine and when will it be available?
The common flu, which is dangerous on its own to many people, is an additional threat to public health during the pandemic as according to reporting by the BBC, there is evidence that a double infection of both flu and Covid-19 is deadlier than either virus alone.
On top of this, a heavy flu season combined with the coronavirus might overwhelm the NHS and if lots of medical staff are sick with the flu, then they might not be able to deal with coronavirus with the same effectiveness as they have done in previous months.
And while we know that flu symptoms include a dry cough, a fever, fatigue and headaches, these are also symptoms of coronavirus. This means that more testing will have to be done to try and trace contacts to limit the spread of the virus.
So to try and keep the NHS’ working capacity, the government has already announced a huge uptake in the number of coronavirus tests being done per day and now, along with the promise that millions more people than last year in England would be offered the free flu vaccine.
Although the vaccine has been offered in previous years, to try and limit the numbers of people who will contract the common flu this year, the qualifying criteria for the vaccine will now include more demographics of the population.
It is currently not known what the plans are to extend the new flu vaccination scheme into Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
So when will the vaccine be available? Who can have it? And everything else you need to know about the flu vaccine.
When will the flu vaccine be available?
The NHS advises that the best time to have the flu vaccine is in the winter months, any time from October to the end of November. However, this year the vaccine will be made available from September for all those who qualify.
As Professor Chris Whitty , the chief medical advisor, previously stated, “This winter more than ever, with Covid-19 still circulating, we need to help reduce all avoidable risks.
“Vaccinating more people will help reduce flu transmission and stop people becoming ill.”
Last year, 25 million people were offered the flu vaccine and only 15 million people took up the offer. The government hopes that by offering the vaccine to 5 million more people this year and extending it to more people, it will be more successful and help to protect the NHS in the winter.
Who will be offered the vaccine?
Changes are being made to what qualifies you for a free flu vaccine this year. It will now include wider demographics to include more age groups, medical conditions and those at risk.
People being offered the flu vaccine include:
- Anyone over 50 years of age
- All those shielding and the people they live with
- Anyone with medical conditions like diabetes, heart failure or asthma
- All pregnant women
- Pre-school children over two years of age
- All primary school children and for the first time, those in year 7
In the coming months, the NHS will be in contact with all those who are being offered the vaccine. Those who are most at risk will be vaccinated first, when the programme begins later this year with those aged 50 – 64 to be offered the vaccine later, according to BBC reporting.
How long does the flu vaccine last?
It is thought that those who have the flu vaccine administered are protected for up to six months, which is often the length of an upcoming flu season.
This is why people should have the vaccination every year.
Where to go to get the flu vaccine
The flu vaccine is offered by the NHS and can be administered at your local GP surgery, at a local pharmacy that offers the service or if you are pregnant, by a midwife.
Many community pharmacies also now offer the vaccination to adults who are at risk of catching the flu, which includes pregnant women, people aged over 65 and those with long term health conditions and their carers.