NHS warning: time’s running out to get protected

  • Eligible Londoners have until 14 December to book flu and Covid vaccinations online 
  • Winter holiday season increases transmission risk as people come together with loved ones and their communities  
  • Cold and wet weather gives flu and covid viruses more opportunity to spread as people congregate indoors and turn to public transport 
  • Cold weather, stress and alcohol consumption lower immunity  
  • Winter period sees NHS staff under increased pressure due to flu and covid cases 
  • Vaccinations helped prevent 25,000 people from being hospitalised last winter according to the UKHSA  

With just two weeks left to book flu and covid vaccinations online, NHS London is warning Londoners not to delay booking their winter jabs and to ensure they and their loved ones are protected this winter.  

Cold and wet weather and festive celebrations mean that people are more likely to congregate indoors, and NHS bosses in the capital want to ensure that people don’t give the gift of flu or covid during a time when friends and family traditionally come together. 

This year’s adult covid and flu vaccination programme was brought forward based on the latest expert advice following the emergence of a new covid variant, and as the clock ticks down to 14 December, which is the last day to book online, clinicians are warning people not to delay.  It can take up to two weeks after getting vaccinated to build up maximum protection. 

Dr. Jeeves Wijesuriya an East London based GP said:  

“The winter holidays really can be the worst time to get ill. It can ruin a chance for people to be together with their families and friends and, worse still, illnesses like flu and covid can linger into the new year.”  

“Now is the opportunity for people to get vaccinated, to protect themselves and their communities, and help ensure that dedicated NHS staff can focus on treating people that most need their help this winter.” 

More than 880,000 eligible Londoners been vaccinated so far against Covid since the start of this year’s campaign, while more than 1.5 million have been vaccinated against flu. The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) estimates that last winter’s flu and Covid vaccination campaign prevented 25,000 hospitalisations.  

Tamsin Bicknell, a Consultant Midwife at Homerton Healthcare, who is currently six months’ pregnant, explains the importance of those who are expecting getting vaccinated.  

“Your immune system is dampened during pregnancy” says Tamsin, “and you’re more susceptible to viruses and infections.  

“People might be thinking ‘but I’ve already had covid vaccines and boosters – why do I need another?’ – and the same with flu too – the reason is the new strains, or variants, that develop regularly. The boosters protect against the most prevalent strains for that particular season.” 

Commenting on her own recent vaccination, Tamsin said:

“If I did get some side-effects, it’s a day or two of feeling a bit groggy versus becoming really unwell and risking pre-term birth and all sorts of other complications.”  

Elaine Smith, Nurse Consultant Infection Prevention and Control at West London NHS Trust is also urging people to come forward during the last two weeks of online booking. After vaccinating a colleague in West London, Elaine said:

“Protect your immunity this winter by having your flu and covid vaccine, this will protect you and your family from serious illness that can be caused by these viruses.” 

Meanwhile over in West London, Valentina Murgueitio a Nurse and Clinical Lead Assistant described how her team has been vaccinating residents at Acton Care Center, home to more than 100 elderly and often vulnerable residents.  

“Our residents are now winter ready and vaccinated against covid and flu,” says Valentina, “this year’s vaccination campaign will alleviate some of the pressure on the NHS”. 

Valentina is part of an effort which has seen all of London’s 27,000 care home residents, spread across 1,300 sites, reached by the winter vaccination campaign. This made London the first region in the UK to reach all this cohort and protect some of the most vulnerable people in the capital.  

Londoners can check to see if they are eligible and book their flu and seasonal COVID-19 vaccination online at or via the NHS App by 14 December 2023. They will not be able to book a vaccination online after this date. The national booking system and the NHS app are the most convenient way to book both vaccines, allowing people to book vaccines online at a site nearby in a matter of minutes.  

From 15 December, Londoners will still be able to book their vaccines locally. COVID-19 vaccines will be able to be booked directly at a pharmacy or given at a walk-in site, but there will be fewer COVID-19 appointments and it may require travelling further. The NHS flu vaccine will still be able to be booked at GP surgeries and pharmacies.