Dr Amir Khan says flu is ‘going to be a real worry’ this winter
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Social distancing and lockdown over the course of the coronavirus pandemic are thought to be the main drivers behind such a large outbreak, as this winter will be the first in two years people will be able to lead life as normal. Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, deputy chief medical officer, said: “Not many people got flu last year because of Covid-19 restrictions, so there isn’t as much natural immunity in our communities as usual.
“We will see flu circulating this winter; it might be higher than usual and that makes it a significant public health concern.”
The NHS is currently embarking on its biggest ever flu vaccine rollout, with 35 million due to be offered the jab in the face of waning immunity.
Everyone over the age of 50 and below the age of 16 will be offered a flu vaccine, along with pregnant women, healthcare workers, and those with underlying health conditions.
The experts fear of 60,000 flu deaths would be the worst figure since the 1968 Hong Kong Flu epidemic, with vaccines the only way out of yet another health crisis in the UK.
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Officials highlighted modelling from the Academy of Medical Sciences, which suggests this winter the UK could see between 15,000 and 60,000 flu deaths.
This is in comparison with an average of 11,000 deaths a year in the five years before the Covid-19 pandemic.
Professor Van-Tam said: “Covid-19 will still be circulating and with more people mixing indoors, sadly some increases are possible.
“For the first time we will have Covid-19 and flu co-circulating.
“We need to take this seriously and defend ourselves and the NHS by getting the annual flu jab and the Covid-19 booster when called.
“Both these viruses are serious: they can both spread easily, cause hospitalisation and they can both be fatal.
“It is really important that people get their vaccines as soon as they can.”
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “This year we are rolling out the largest flu vaccine programme in our history, alongside the new Covid-19 booster vaccine rollout; both are important to provide vital protection not only to yourself but also your loved ones while also helping to ease pressure on the NHS.”
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How do I get a flu vaccine?
The flu jab is available for everyone in the UK – but for people in certain age groups and demographics, the jab is free on the NHS.
Those not in eligible groups can also get a flu jab, with an average high street pharmacy cost of around £15 – you can book one of these online, for example with Boots, or talk to your local pharmacist.
The flu vaccine is offered via your GP, or in the case of pregnancy, a midwife.
Schoolchildren will be offered the vaccine via their school.
The vaccine is being offered for free to the following groups:
• All children aged two and three
• All primary and secondary school pupils up to and including Year 11
• Those aged six months to under 50 years in clinical risk groups
• Pregnant women
• Those aged 50 years and over
• People in residential care
• Unpaid carers
• Close contacts of people with weakened immune systems
• Health and care staff
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