Millions of people will be offered a free flu jab in England this autumn. The double threat of Covid and flu has prompted health officials to increase the number of vaccines offered in the hope of reaching 35 million people in total. Last winter, the uptake for flu vaccines in England was 19 million.
Even before the Covid vaccination was developed, experts believed the risk of death could be doubled for those who caught both flu and Covid at the same time. While tens of millions have now received Covid jabs, the government wants to provide an extra layer of protection in winter by offering more people a free flu jab. Paid flu jabs will also be available for those who want them.
Building a wall of protection
With Freedom Day finally here, many people are looking forward to getting a step closer to normality. However, the easing of restrictions has also sparked fears over increased Covid infection rates and increased flu activity this winter.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who himself has now tested positive for Covid, said it was essential to build a wall of protection. The NHS hopes to achieve this by vaccinating a record number of people against flu.
Mr Javid said, "We want to build a wall of protection by immunising a record number of people. With the nation getting closer to normal life, we must learn to live with Covid-19 alongside other viruses and we're offering the free flu jab to millions more people to help keep them safe this winter."
Last winter, flu levels were significantly lower than average, largely thanks to the variety of Covid restrictions in place during the autumn when the second wave of Covid took hold. With people locked down, social distancing measures, and strict rules over travel and wearing face masks, flu was nowhere near as prevalent as it usually is during the colder season.
However, experts say this means people have not built up defences against the flu virus, which meant that it was important for protective measures to be put into place.
Dr Yvonne Doyle, medical director at Public Health England, said: "Last winter, flu activity was extremely low, but this is no reason for complacency as it means less people have built up a defence against the virus. Combined with the likelihood that Covid will still be circulating, this makes the coming flu season highly unpredictable."
Among those who will be offered a free flu jab are over-50s, at-risk groups, and children aged between two and 16. In addition, the government is also getting prepared for Covid booster jabs this autumn for millions of older and at-risk people.