People aged 65 and over, a priority for this year’s flu jab, have received their vaccine in record time. Over three quarters have been vaccinated across the South East of England region, exceeding the 75% aim set by Public Health England. This means that nearly 1.3 million people aged 65 and over have already been vaccinated, almost 9% higher than at this time last year.
The Covid-19 pandemic has made the county more virus alert this year as health organisations across the region remind people that it is not ‘just’ the flu; it’s a serious illness that causes complications. With Flu and Covid circulating this winter, it’s more important than ever that people are vaccinated to protect themselves, their families, friends and colleagues, and the NHS.
The NHS in the South East is urging people to continue to come forward as the flu programme continues throughout December and into the new year. Those under 65 years of age in clinical at-risk groups and with long term conditions, pregnant women, children 2-11, carers, and for the first time, 50-64 year olds, are all now eligible for a free flu vaccine, alongside healthcare workers.
NHS teams across the South East are finding innovative and safe ways to vaccinate people this year, including drive through clinics and Covid-secure community centres. Community and faith leaders are supporting the vaccination programme through multilingual messages to encourage people to come forward.
Dr Vaughan Lewis, Medical Director for NHS England and NHS Improvement’s South East region, said:
“It is great news that our 65 year old and over programme has already hit its 75% target and I would like to thank all those who have worked incredibly hard to make this happen, in particular staff in GP practices and pharmacies and school immunisation teams, all of who have been working under the most challenging of circumstances to ensure the vaccine can be delivered safely and quickly.
“For those who have yet to be vaccinated against flu this year including those aged between 50 and 64 to whom this year’s programme has been extended to cover; there is still time to get your free flu vaccination as appointments continue throughout the winter season and are being scheduled by practices and pharmacies as new supplies are delivered. Your GP will contact you to remind you to book, however, you may be asked to wait for a little while as new stock arrives.”
Dr Michael Baker, Deputy Director of Healthcare Public Health for Public Health England South East, said:
“We have had an incredible start to the flu vaccination programme. It is more important than ever for those over 65 to get vaccinated this year especially as those with co-infection of Covid-19 and flu are more at risk of severe illness and this vaccination will help prevent that.
“There is still time to get vaccinated against flu before it starts circulating in the community and I urge everyone who is eligible to take up the free flu vaccine this winter.”
The government has secured enough vaccine for 30 million people in England, making it the biggest flu programme ever.
To find out more about the flu jab and who is eligible for a free flu vaccination, please go to: www.nhs.uk/flujab