Island residents are being encouraged to protect themselves from serious illness this winter by boosting their immunity with a seasonal flu jab and a COVID-19 booster vaccination.
Flu vaccinations are to be rolled out from this month to eligible adults and children via community pharmacies, GP surgeries, schools and the Chester Street vaccination hub – with many of those eligible for a COVID-19 booster being offered both vaccinations at the same appointment.
The risk posed by seasonal influenza is higher this year because fewer people built up a natural immunity to the flu virus during the pandemic last winter. The timing of an expected wave of flu cases during the 2021/22 winter season is uncertain, but mathematical modelling suggests the coming flu season in the UK could be up to 50% larger than usual.
This year’s flu vaccination programme is being extended to include secondary school children in years 7 to 11 in addition to primary school children, and to all adults from the age of 50. Other groups eligible for a flu vaccination are:
The Island’s Head of Health Protection Jacqui Dunn said: ‘The flu vaccine is safe, effective and protects millions of people each year from what can be a devastating illness. Last winter, flu activity was really low, but this is no reason for complacency as it means fewer people have built up a defence against the virus. COVID-19 will also still be with us and this makes the coming flu season highly unpredictable.
She added: ‘By lowering the number of serious flu infections in our community we can also reduce the risk of developing other serious respiratory illnesses. Flu is highly infectious and although healthy people usually recover within seven days, for some the disease can lead to a stay in hospital, disability or even death.
Jacqui concluded: ‘Getting your free flu vaccine, if you are eligible, as well as keeping up good basic habits like regularly washing your hands and covering your coughs and sneezes, could help save a life. It will also help protect health and care services ahead of a busy winter period. So please do come forward and to get your vaccine in good time, to give you and your loved ones vital protection this winter.’
People aged between 50 and 69 and those in the vulnerable groups are encouraged to consider receiving their flu jab at a participating community pharmacy. GP practices offering flu jabs will write to their patients aged 70 and over and those with serious underlying conditions, inviting them to book a jab at the surgery, and they may be able to have their COVID-19 booster at the same time.
In addition, GPs will be visiting care and residential homes for older adults to give flu vaccinations in the coming weeks.
This year, children and young people in primary school and secondary school up to year 11 will be given their nasal flu vaccination in school. Parents and carers have been notified about arrangements including being asked to complete consent forms for their child.
The COVID-19 booster vaccination programme gets underway in the Island this week, with walk-in sessions for frontline health and care workers at the Chester Street hub over three days from Friday 24 September where staff will be offered the opportunity to have a flu jab at the same time.
Having both vaccines will help create a shield against viruses, boost immunity over the winter and help protect health and care services by reducing demand – and those eligible are urged to have either or both at the earliest opportunity to protect themselves against serious illness this winter.
Visit the Government’s dedicated flu webpage for more information: www.gov.im/flu