EXPERTS warn that Covid-19 and flu infections could rise again this winter – creating a so-called twindemic.
So now is the best time to make sure you’re up to date with your vaccinations.
It’s not just the elderly who should take action.
The combination of viruses also poses a threat to those in at-risk groups including people with a long-term health condition and pregnant women.
Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser at UKHSA, says: “This combination poses a serious risk to our health, particularly for those in high-risk groups.
“We are extremely fortunate to have vaccines against these two diseases. Most eligible groups have been selected because they are at higher risk of severe illness.”
The vaccines’ effectiveness wanes over time, so it’s really important to get both the Covid-19 booster and flu vaccine if you are eligible.
Professor Steve Powis, NHS England national medical director, says: “With many people in hospital with Covid-19, and flu posing an even greater risk this year, I urge everyone eligible to book both vaccines as soon as possible – to protect themselves and their loved ones.
“With thousands of NHS sites across the country offering both vaccines, it has never been easier to get this protection.”
Who is eligible?
AS WELL as the over-50s, anyone in a high-risk group with certain long-term health conditions can also now get the free flu vaccination and Covid-19 booster.
Most eligible groups have been selected because they are at higher risk of severe illness.
This includes those with poorly controlled asthma, chronic heart, kidney, liver or neurological disease, or diabetes.
Pregnant women who are at any stage in pregnancy can also come forward for the vaccines, and many young children are eligible for the flu vaccine nasal spray.
How do I find out if I’m eligible?
It’s easy to check whether you qualify. Simply visit nhs.uk/wintervaccinations. If you are eligible, book your appointment right away.
Why should I get the vaccines?
If you have a long-term health condition, you are at risk of falling seriously ill.
If you are immunosuppressed, data shows you are more than 47 times more likely to die from flu and are also at high risk of serious illness from Covid-19.
We’re facing a rise in flu this winter, as well as further Covid-19 cases with a lot of variants, so you should protect yourself and your family.
The flu vaccine can reduce the risk of serious complications for pregnant women, with those who are unvaccinated and get flu more likely to need intensive care or have a stillborn or premature baby.
Which vaccines should I get?
If you are eligible, you should get both the flu vaccine and the Covid-19 booster.
I’m eligible – when can I get the vaccines?
You can get a Covid-19 booster when 91 days have passed since your previous Covid-19 jab.
You can schedule your flu vaccine immediately.
What are the side-effects?
Side-effects of Covid boosters are usually mild and don’t last long.
Most side-effects from the flu vaccine usually last a day or so and are mild, such as a slightly raised temperature, muscle aches and a sore arm where the needle went in.
What is the risk if I don’t have the vaccine?
If you don’t get vaccinated and catch either flu or Covid-19, there is a risk you could get seriously ill.
Both flu and Covid-19 can also be life-threatening.
Don’t take the risk. Get your vaccines as soon as you are eligible.
TikToker Rosie is first in line for vaccines
COMEDIAN and TikToker Rosie Turner has a weakened immune system due to ulcerative colitis, so getting a flu vaccine is always really important.
She’s now keen to get her Covid-19 jab as soon as she can, too.
The 29-year-old, who lives in London with her girlfriend, runs her own content creation business.
Rosie says: “Colitis attacks your immune system, which means I fall ill very easily. This makes me hyper-aware of the importance of getting vaccinated. If I did get flu or Covid-19, I could become seriously poorly.
“It could trigger a flare-up, and symptoms such as diarrhoea, vomiting and bloating could all be amplified. Given this, I’m first in the queue to get the flu vaccine every year, and now want to get my Covid-19 booster.
“Getting vaccinated is essential for me – and it helps that I’ve never really had any side-effects.”
Rosie’s motivation is not only to protect herself, but also to protect those around her.
She explains: “My mum has type 1 diabetes and she has to be extremely careful. For me, getting the flu and Covid-19 vaccinations is about looking after my family and community.”
Rosie was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in 2012, aged 19. “Initially, I thought the symptoms were food intolerances,” she says.
“But things got aggravated at university when I was drinking alcohol, eating lots of takeaways and, at times, not getting enough sleep.”
It wasn’t until Rosie found blood in her poo that she became really worried.
She says: “I was really freaked out and scared to go to the doctor, but I knew I needed help. Once I got my diagnosis, things got better. I felt a lot more in control.”
While Rosie leads a very busy life, she is still very aware of her condition.
She explains: “I try to lead as normal a life as I can, but colitis still has a big impact on me. I can’t eat a lot of things, and I don’t really drink alcohol at all. I have to focus very carefully on diet and sleep, and keeping stress levels down.
“But now that I’m on medication and have learnt to stay in tune with my body, that helps to keep things at a manageable level.”
Rosie spends lots of her time educating her friends and family – as well as her online audience – about inflammatory bowel disease.
She also works as a content creator with Crohn’s and Colitis UK (crohnsandcolitis.org.uk), a charity working to support people living with these lifelong conditions.
If you’re in an eligible group and have not yet had your first or second Covid-19 vaccines, or two boosters, book an appointment or find a walk-in centre at nhs.uk.
Book a free NHS flu vaccination through your GP practice or direct with a local community pharmacy.
Visit nhs.uk. Eligible children should be offered a vaccination through their school.