NHS flu and covid vaccine programmes brought forward due to risk of new covid variant
Friday, 1 September 2023
Eligible people in Cheshire and Merseyside will now be offered a covid vaccine from 11 September, in line with the latest expert guidance on the new covid variant.
This change follows an announcement by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) on the risks presented by the new BA.2.86 variant and pre-emptive measures the NHS has been asked to take.
The adult covid and flu vaccination programmes had been due to start in October to maximise protection over the winter months, but now those most at risk including adult care home residents will be vaccinated from 11 September.
The NHS has been asked to bring the programme forward and will be working quickly to ensure as many eligible people as possible are vaccinated by the end of October.
Residents of older adult care homes and those most at risk including those who are immunosuppressed will receive their covid vaccine first.
Carers, pregnant women, and health and social care staff will all be among the groups to be offered a covid jab this winter, as well as adults aged 65 and over.
Eligible people should wait to receive an invite from their local provider.
From 18 September, the NHS will start to invite people in priority order of risk and those eligible will be able to book an appointment on the National Booking Service.
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.
Following the JCVI’s recommendation that adults over the age of 65 and those with underlying health conditions would be eligible for a flu and COVID-19 vaccination this year, the offer was due to start from early October to maximise protection for patients right across the winter months.
Now with the increased risks presented by the COVID-19 variant BA.2.86, vaccine sites can vaccinate those eligible for both flu and covid from 11 September.
Where people had already booked an appointment for their flu vaccination earlier in September with their local provider, these appointments can go ahead. If vaccine supply has been ordered for covid and flu, sites can start vaccinating against both.
Wherever possible, vaccinations for flu and COVID-19 should still be offered at the same time, making it easier and more convenient for people to get vital protection from both viruses ahead of winter.
Dr Fiona Lemmens, Associate Medical Director, NHS Cheshire and Merseyside, said:
“Vaccinations are our best defence against flu and COVID-19 ahead of what could be a very challenging winter.
“In line with the latest expert advice, we’ll now be starting vaccination earlier than originally planned and NHS teams across Cheshire and Merseyside will accelerate delivery of the programme to ensure as many eligible people as possible are vaccinated by the end of October.
“Once eligible people receive their invitations, I’d urge them to come forward as soon as possible to get their vital protection against both covid and flu.”
Last year, in Cheshire and Merseyside more than 940,000 people were given a flu vaccine and more than 784,000 eligible people received the covid autumn dose.
In total, more than 6.8 million COVID-19 vaccinations have now been given by healthcare staff and volunteers in Cheshire and Merseyside since the programme started in December 2020.
It is important that those eligible this year come forward for their vaccinations as protection fades over time, and the virus that causes flu can change from year to year.
As in previous years, the NHS will let people know when bookings open. Adult flu and COVID-19 appointments will be available through the NHS App and website, or by calling 119 for those who can’t get online. Flu vaccines will also be available through local GP practices and pharmacies.
There will be no change to flu vaccinations for children which will be offered in schools from early September, to prevent children from getting seriously ill from flu and ending up hospital, and to break the chain of transmission of the virus to the wider population.
The nasal flu vaccine is the most effective vaccine for children aged 2-17 years but if this is not suitable the GP or practice nurse may be able to offer a flu vaccine injection as an alternative.
Health and social care workers will be invited for their vaccines through their employer.
In line with advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, those eligible for a flu vaccine this year include:
- those aged 65 years and over
- those aged 6 months to under 65 years in clinical risk groups (as defined by the Green Book, chapter 19 (Influenza))
- pregnant women
- all children aged 2 or 3 years on 31 August 2023
- school-aged children (from Reception to Year 11)
- those in long-stay residential care homes
- carers in receipt of carer’s allowance, or those who are the main carer of an elderly or disabled person
- close contacts of immunocompromised individuals
- frontline workers in a social care setting without an employer led occupational health scheme including those working for a registered residential care or nursing home, registered domiciliary care providers, voluntary managed hospice providers and those that are employed by those who receive direct payments (personal budgets) or Personal Health budgets, such as Personal Assistants
Those eligible for an autumn covid vaccine are:
- residents in a care home for older adults
- all adults aged 65 years and over
- persons aged 6 months to 64 years in a clinical risk group, as laid out in the Immunisation Green Book, COVID-19 chapter (Green Book)
- frontline health and social care workers
- persons aged 12 to 64 years who are household contacts (as defined in the Green Book) of people with immunosuppression
- persons aged 16 to 64 years who are carers (as defined in the Green Book) and staff working in care homes for older adults.
Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust’s Living Well Service will continue its mobile outreach service across Cheshire and Merseyside, offering COVID-19 vaccinations, free health checks and wider wellbeing advice to anyone who drops-in. For more information about Living Well or to see the service’s timetable visit: www.cwp.nhs.uk/livingwellservice.