Millions of eligible people across London can now book life-saving autumn Covid and flu vaccines online as the NHS steps up its winter vaccination programmes early in response to the risk of the new Covid variant.
Vulnerable people, including those in care homes and the housebound started receiving their jabs earlier in the month. Now however nearly two and a half million eligible people in London can book their Covid and flu vaccinations via the NHS website, by downloading the NHS App, or by calling 119 for free if they can’t get online.
Alongside this, NHS staff have worked hard to prepare for the earlier start of the programme, with more than 800 sites across London taking part in the campaign this year to make it as easy and convenient as possible for people to get protection. GP practices and other local NHS services are also contacting people to offer both flu and Covid vaccines.
This year’s adult Covid and flu vaccination programme was brought forward on the advice of scientists following the emergence of a new Covid-19 variant (BA.2.86), which has a high number of mutations.
Health chiefs have ensured there is enough capacity to offer the flu and Covid vaccines to all those eligible by the end of October, reflecting the risk of the new variant.
The NHS is encouraging people to get both vaccinations as soon as they can and not delay, due to the risk of the new Covid-19 variant and ahead of the winter period. It is important for those who are eligible to top up their protection, even if they have had a vaccine or been ill with flu or Covid before, as immunity wanes over time and these viruses change each year.
Last year, the NHS faced the ‘twindemic’ of flu and Covid with high occupancy in hospitals and record pressure on staff and plans for this winter are already underway. The latest data shows from the UK Health Security Agency reveals that last year’s vaccine prevented around 25,000 hospitalisations in England.
Dr Oge Ilozue, a GP and senior clinical adviser of the NHS London vaccination programme said: “With darker night’s drawing in and a new Covid variant to contend with, people in London shouldn’t hesitate to protect their health this winter and get their vaccinations this winter. The NHS flu and Covid vaccination programmes are key to protecting those at greatest risk and there are now more ways than ever for people to get their vaccinations.
“Following the roll-out to care homes and the housebound earlier in September, the programmes are now open to all eligible people in London, ensuring they’re protected this winter. I encourage people to play their part and come forward as soon as they can for this important protection in colder months.”
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “The dark days of the pandemic seem like a long time ago, but we must not forget that COVID-19 is still present, and as winter approaches it means there are other respiratory viruses circulating that could make vulnerable Londoners seriously ill. I urge Londoners who are eligible to take-up the offer of a flu vaccine and COVID booster as soon as possible to help protect themselves, their loved ones and the NHS.”
Abi Wood, CEO at Age UK said:
“It is really important that older Londoners book their vaccinations as the news of a new variant shows that COVID-19 has not gone away and is something we must continue to live with. Everyone aged 65 and over is eligible for the free flu vaccine as well as the free covid vaccine. As we start to see autumn arrive and the colder weather not far behind, it’s important that all older Londoners protect themselves, and those around them, by getting vaccinated.”
Notes to editors
Children aged 2-17 are still able to receive their flu vaccinations and parents are strongly encouraged to fill out their consent forms to enable their child to get protected.
The most effective vaccine for children is the nasal vaccine, which is even more convenient and easily administered when compared to a jab, though injectables are available for those who need them due to faith or ethical considerations.
Following guidance from the Chief Medical Officer and the UK Health Security Agency, NHS England brought forward its Covid and flu vaccination programme, which was due to commence at the beginning of October.
The guidance was given following the emergence of the Covid variant BA.2.86, which is currently under assessment by UKHSA. The agency’s latest variant technical briefing providing analysis on the variant was published on Friday.
Last year, the NHS carried out its second biggest ever flu vaccination campaign, with more than 21 million flu vaccinations given to adults and children, while more than 17 million Covid jabs were delivered last winter.
Earlier this year, NHS England announced more than 86 million Covid vaccination appointments have been arranged using the NHS’s national online booking system since its launch two years ago.