Getting both the flu and Covid-19 vaccines is vital for people in higher risk groups to ensure they’re double protected this winter, according to Alison Challenger, Director of Public Health for West Sussex.
She is urging all of those who are eligible to get their free flu vaccination and Covid-19 booster as soon as possible. It is also important to have the first two Covid-19 vaccines if you haven’t already because of the high levels of the virus circulating at present.
The latest figures show in seven days (30 Oct-5 Nov) there were 3,990 new cases of Covid-19 across West Sussex. That equates to an average rate of 459.9 per 100,000 people across the county who have coronavirus – more than the national average of 356.1.
The flu and Covid-19 viruses can each leave those who catch them seriously ill, but being infected with both at the same time could be even more dangerous. Getting vaccinated against both viruses is the most effective way to keep yourself and others safe, and to ensure we are doing all we can as individuals and communities to reduce the pressure on our local NHS services.
Alison Challenger, the Director of Public Health for West Sussex, said: “Just like Covid-19, flu is highly infectious and can put people who are clinically vulnerable at increased risk of getting very poorly.
“Because most people were not mixing as usual during the pandemic, it means fewer people have built up a natural immunity to the flu which is especially prevalent during the winter months.
“Catching the flu and Covid-19 at the same time could be extremely dangerous for many people, especially those who are older or clinically vulnerable.
“It can take up to a couple of weeks for the flu vaccine to boost your immune system enough to give you the necessary protection, so if you are eligible you should book yours as soon as possible.”
Everyone aged 50 and over is eligible for both the flu vaccine and Covid-19 booster. It is safe to have both if you are offered them at the same time.
The flu vaccine is free and recommended to the following people:
- Everyone aged 50 and over
- Those aged six months to under 50 years who have a medical condition (including heart or lung disease, diabetes, a stroke or are seriously overweight (BMI of 40 and above)
- All pregnant women, at any stage of pregnancy
- All children aged two to 15 (but not 16 years or older) on 31 August 2021
- Everyone living in a residential or nursing home
- Everyone who cares for an older or disabled person
- Household contacts of anyone who is immunocompromised
- All frontline health and social workers
If you are not eligible for a free vaccine, then local pharmacies are offering a flu vaccine at a small charge.
It is very easy to pass on the flu virus without knowing and even those who are healthy can catch it and infect others. That is why the flu vaccine programme is rolled out in schools, to reduce the transmission of flu from children to older adults and people in clinical risk groups.
Unlike the vaccination for adults, which is given via an injection, for most children the vaccine will be given as a spray in each nostril. This is a very quick and painless procedure. The Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust website contains more information about the school vaccination programme.
The NHS website has more information about the Covid-19 booster vaccine and the flu vaccine.
First and second doses of the Covid-19 vaccine are free and remain available to everyone aged 12 and over. Appointments can be booked online or by calling 119.
The Sussex Health and Care Partnership website has more details about the vaccination programme across Sussex, as well as the availability of walk-in appointments which don’t need to be booked in advance.