Watch: Brits urged to take up flu jab in biggest ever rollout
As we head into winter, with thousands still unprotected against COVID, the last thing the UK needs is a flu epidemic.
But this will be the first season where COVID and flu will be transmitted simultaneously, as this year we're out of lockdown and back to mingling at schools, workplaces and events.
Research has shown, however, that those unlucky enough to be infected with both COVID and flu are twice as likely to die as those who have COVID on its own.
That's why the threat is being taken very seriously.
Over 40 million in the UK are being offered a flu vaccination. For the first time ever, this includes secondary school children up to age 16.
Immunity levels are lower than normal this year, because so few people have been ill with flu over the past 18 months.
"Both these viruses are serious: they can both spread easily, cause hospitalisation and they can both be fatal," said England's deputy chief medical officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam. "We need to take this seriously and defend ourselves."
This year's flu vaccine has been updated to cope with what scientists have predicted will be the predominant strains this season.
Alongside other common winter viruses, flu generally leads to over 1000 UK hospital admissions a day in winter, and on average, kills around 11,000 a year, although the 2017-18 season saw double that number during the worst months.
Scientists are concerned that with COVID also remaining a threat, the resulting admissions could put unmanageable pressure on the NHS and potentially lead to up to 60 000 deaths.
The government has also launched a campaign with TV doctors Dr Amir Khan, Dr Dawn Harper and Dr Karan Ranj, to remind eligible groups to have both flu jabs and COVID boosters.
Here's everything you need to know.
WHO IS ELIGIBLE?
Over-50s, including those who tur 50 by March 31st 2022 (Covid booster and flu jab)
Younger people with health conditions (Covid booster and flu jab)
Health and care workers (Covid booster and flu jab)
Pregnant women (flu jab)
Two- to 16-year-olds (nasal flu jab)
At-risk infants aged six months to two years (flu jab)
GP surgeries will contact those eligible for the flu jab, or patients can book a jab at their pharmacy.
Those who qualify for the coronavirus booster should wait until they are contacted.
WHAT IF I'M NOT ELIGIBLE?
Anyone who is not eligible for a free flu jab can pay for it privately at most pharmacies, for around £15.
CAN I HAVE BOTH JABS TOGETHER?
In some areas, people might be offered the Covid jab in one arm and the flu vaccine in the other on the same day, although this will not be available everywhere.
FLU HAPPENS EVERY YEAR SO WHY ARE THEY MAKING SUCH A FUSS THIS YEAR?
With lockdowns and social distancing last winter not many people got flu, therefore there is not as much natural immunity as there would usually be.
Earlier this week, Professor Neil Ferguson, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said the UK does not have much “headroom” for rising Covid-19 cases before the NHS becomes “heavily stressed”.
A report in the summer from the Academy of Medical Sciences assessed the triple threat of coronavirus, flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and found that hospital admissions and deaths from flu and RSV could be more than double those seen in a normal year, leading to as many as 60,000 flu deaths and 40,000 children in hospital with RSV.
WHAT'S THE TARGET?
The NHS has set an ambition to reach at least 85% of people aged 65 and over.
It also hopes to reach at least 75% of people with underlying health conditions, such as asthma and heart disease, at least 75% of pregnant women and at least 70% of eligible children.
It is hoped at least 85% of frontline health and social care workers will accept a flu jab this year.
WHAT ABOUT BOOSTER CORONAVIRUS JABS?
Around 28 million people in England are eligible for a booster jab, with around 1.7 million people having had a third shot so far.
Those who can have a booster include everyone aged 50 and over, frontline health and social care workers, and those aged between 16 and 49 with an underlying health condition putting them at greater risk from Covid-19.
Boosters will be given to people at least six months after they had their second coronavirus jab.
Additional reporting by PA
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