Millions of people in the North West can book their life-saving autumn COVID-19 vaccine online from today (18 September) as the NHS steps up its winter vaccination programmes early in response to the risk of the new COVID-19 variant.
Anyone eligible can book their COVID-19 vaccinations via the NHS website, by downloading the NHS App, or by calling 119 for free if they can’t get online.
Hundreds of thousands of adults who are eligible for winter vaccines – including all aged 65 and over, pregnant women, those with an underlying health condition and frontline health and social care staff – will also begin receiving invitations from the NHS to encourage them to get their COVID-19 and flu vaccines from this week.
GP practices will also be contacting people to offer both flu and COVID-19 vaccines, and people can book the flu vaccine by searching online for a local pharmacy.
More than 2.7 million people are eligible to receive a flu and COVID-19 vaccines in the North West.
COVID-19 vaccination for those aged under 18 years, who are immunosuppressed or a household contact of someone who is immunosuppressed, will begin later in the year – the NHS will let eligible families know when this offer opens.
This year’s adult COVID-19 and flu vaccination programme has been 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.
NHS staff have worked hard to prepare for the earlier start of the programme and, as in previous phases, hundreds of sites in the North West will be offering jabs this year to make it as easy as possible for people to get protected.
Dr Linda Charles-Ozuzu, Regional Director of Commissioning and senior responsible officer for the COVID-19 vaccination programme for NHS England – North West, said: “The vaccines continue to provide the best protection against serious illness and hospitalisation from COVID-19 and flu, so please make sure you get vaccinated when offered and encourage loved ones who are eligible to do the same.
“There are hundreds of convenient sites across the North West and it is now easier for anyone who is eligible, to book their COVID-19 vaccine online, via the NBS or on the NHS app.
“As winter approaches, and the NHS deals with another new COVID-19 variant, it is more important than ever to protect those who are more vulnerable to becoming seriously ill with the virus.”
The NHS winter flu and COVID-19 vaccination programme provides vital protection to those eligible and their families over winter, keeping people from developing serious illnesses, and helping to minimise hospitalisations during busy winter months.
People eligible during this year’s vaccination campaign include all aged 65 and over, care home residents, frontline health and social care staff, those at increased risk because they are pregnant or have a certain underlying health condition, unpaid carers and household contacts of those at risk.
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-19 before, as immunity fades over time and these viruses change each year.
On 11 September, care home residents and people who are housebound began receiving their COVID-19 and flu vaccinations with visits from their local NHS team.
In total more than 18.2 million COVID-19 vaccinations have been given in the North West since the programme started in December 2020.
Last year, in the North West, more than 2.8 million people were given a flu vaccine and more than 2 million eligible people received the COVID-19 autumn dose.
Flu vaccination of children aged two to 17 has begun and the first invitations to parents of children aged two and three are also being sent today. Parents are being urged to fill out the consent forms for the nasal spray vaccine as soon as they can, which is administered at school and in GP surgeries.