It’s vital that frontline health and care staff keep coming forward for the COVID-19 and flu vaccines

Thanks to the continued unwavering efforts of NHS staff, we have already delivered more than 16 million autumn Covid vaccine booster doses and more than 17 million flu vaccines. We know that countries in the Southern Hemisphere have had difficult flu seasons, and with immunity levels against flu also lower in many people after two years of lower flu circulation, it is vital that everyone eligible, particularly health and social care staff, get their flu and Covid vaccinations.

We know that flu and COVID-19 can be really serious for some people, and as a health or social care worker, you are more likely to be exposed to these viruses. The flu and Covid vaccines are the best defence we have against them, so it is vital to make sure that you get both life-saving jabs to keep yourself, those you care for and your loved ones safe.

All frontline health and social care workers, including clinical and non-clinical staff, are now eligible for the Covid booster vaccine, and the flu vaccine should be offered by their employer. As health and social care professionals, it’s important to recognise that vaccinations offer the best protection against these viruses as we go into winter when viruses circulate most and can cause most harm.

Last year, during the second winter of the pandemic, more than 1.1 million (74%) of trust based healthcare staff received a booster vaccination against COVID-19 between September and the end of December. This was a fantastic turnout, saving many lives and we are urging all healthcare staff to do the same again this year by getting vaccinated against both COVID-19 and flu.

I know many staff working on the front line want to be confident in the choices they make. Both vaccines have been given to millions of people worldwide, are safe and effective and won’t give you the viruses. They go through the same approval as any medicines to ensure they meet strict safety standards and offer high levels of protection, similar to other jabs you’re likely to have had during your life such as MMR and polio.

There are different variants of the flu virus that often change annually, which is why you should get the vaccine each year if you can. Immunity from COVID-19 (either from the vaccine or having had the virus) wanes over time so, for the best protection for yourself, your colleagues and your patients you will need another dose.

It is easier than ever to make sure you are up to date with your Covid and flu vaccinations. The Covid autumn booster will either be available through your employer, or by booking an appointment online or by calling 119. You may also be able to find a convenient local walk-in option through the online site finder.

The flu vaccine should be provided by your employer. Social care workers who are in direct contact with people who receive care and support services should also have the vaccine provided by their employer. If in doubt about access to either vaccine, please don’t hesitate to speak to your employer who can advise you of your options.

The Covid and flu vaccines can be given on the same day for health and social care workers eligible for both. Whilst you may be able to get both jabs in a single appointment, it’s more important to get earlier protection by getting each one as soon as you can rather than waiting to have both together.

Thanks to the dedication of NHS colleagues, the Covid and flu vaccines have done amazing work, helping to save many lives, keep people out of hospital and helping to bring families back together after lockdown without fear. Members from nursing and midwifery teams across the NHS have played an important leadership role in this. So thank you for everything you have done, for all of the work you are still doing, and please do help to keep yourself, those you care for and your loved ones safe this winter by getting vaccinated as soon as you can.

Ruth May

Ruth enjoyed national appointments with NHS Improvement and Monitor, as well as regional and trust leadership roles, before becoming the Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) for England in January 2019.

In June 2022, as part of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Honours, Ruth was awarded a DBE for her services to nursing, midwifery and the NHS since she started her nurse training in 1985. Upon receiving her Damehood, Ruth recognised the expertise of nursing and midwifery colleagues in caring for people at every stage of their lives and the vital role that the professions and care staff played during the pandemic. Ruth has led the nursing, midwifery and care professions’ response to COVID-19 in England and led collaborative work with UK CNO colleagues, the NMC and trade unions to ensure agreement and consistent messaging on key issues.

She is passionate about nurturing the next generation of NHS nursing and midwifery leaders and encouraging professional development opportunities. This includes advocating for improved mental health awareness, championing volunteer activity to support the frontline workforce, and she is a vocal supporter of the WRES agenda and increased diversity across the NHS.

Proud mum to her wonderful daughter, Ruth is a great believer in a healthy professional and home life balance for all.

Find Ruth on Twitter @CNOEngland / #teamCNO.