- Experts express concern over surge in flu cases before winter
- Jonathan Van-Tam said the population had low natural immunity this year
- This was due to people not getting flu jabs because of the pandemic last year
- Health Secretary Sajid Javid also urged people to get both flu and covid jaba
Health chiefs are urging Britons to shut down as soon as possible amid warnings that the flu could kill 60,000 people this winter.
Experts fear a surge in cases as social distancing measures kept infections down last year, reducing population immunity.
The government has launched the largest flu program in NHS history, with more than 35 million people in England eligible for a free vaccine.
COVID Booster Jobs are also being rolled out, with around 1.7 million people giving this third job so far and around 28 million eligible in England.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid is calling on people to protect themselves from both viruses as experts predict high infection rates could push healthcare to breaking point.
This comes as cold weather and dark evenings increase social interaction indoors, making it easier for the virus to spread.
As per the guidance of the Joint Committee on Immunization and Immunization (JCVI), a COVID booster should be given no earlier than six months after the second dose of any coronavirus vaccine.
Health chiefs are urging Britons to shut down as soon as possible amid warnings the flu could kill 60,000 people this winter [Stock image]
England’s deputy chief medical officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam (pictured), said: ‘Not many people got the flu last year because of the COVID-19 restrictions, so our communities don’t have the usual natural immunity. [File photo]
In some areas people may be offered the COVID jab in one hand and the flu vaccine in the other, although this will not be available everywhere.
Mr Javid said that people should not delay to jab either on separate occasions or at the same time when invited to receive them.
He added: ‘The Covid-19 vaccine program is a great example of how successful vaccination programs can be – about 130,000 lives could be saved.
‘It’s important that we continue the incredible progress we make with all eligible people making sure they get both the flu and COVID-19 booster injections when they are invited.’
A report by the Academy of Medical Sciences published earlier this year assessed how the triple threat of coronavirus, flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) could affect the NHS this winter.
It found that the number of hospitalizations and deaths from flu and RSV could more than double that seen in a typical year, leading to 60,000 flu deaths and 40,000 children in hospital with RSV.
A recent survey of 3,000 people for ministers found that nearly a third (32 percent) were unaware that the flu and COVID-19 could spread at the same time.
A quarter (26 per cent) did not know the flu could be fatal and more than half (55 per cent) underestimated the number of people who died of the flu in an average year in England, which is around 11,000.
Nearly one in ten (9 percent) thought the Covid jab would protect them from the flu.
England’s deputy chief medical officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, said: ‘Not many people got the flu last year because of the COVID-19 restrictions, so our communities don’t have the usual natural immunity.
‘We’ll see the flu spreading this winter; This may be higher than normal and this makes it a significant public health concern.
‘Covid-19 will still be circulating and with more people getting indoors, sadly some increase is possible.
‘For the first time we will have co-circulating Covid-19 and flu.
‘We need to take this seriously and protect ourselves and the NHS by getting annual flu jab and COVID-19 boosters when called.’
Experts fear a surge in cases as social distancing measures kept infections down last year, reducing population immunity [Stock image]
More than 80 percent of people aged 65 and older had the flu in the past year – higher than the global target of 75 percent. The NHS aims to reach at least 85 percent of this group this flu season.
It hopes to reach at least 75 percent of people with underlying health conditions such as asthma and heart disease, at least 75 percent of pregnant women and at least 70 percent of eligible children.
The flu jab will also be offered to all frontline health and social care workers, with the ambition that at least 85 percent will accept.