THIS year it is ‘more important than ever’ people are vaccinated against flu, the region’s deputy medical director has warned.

Dr Jonathan Slade, of NHS North East and Yorkshire, is calling on all eligible people to get vaccinated as people at high risk from Covid-19 are also those most at risk from flu.

“Fortunately, we have a safe and effective vaccine for flu,” Dr Slade said. “I would urge anyone who is eligible to take up the free offer this winter – particularly those with underlying health conditions and pregnant women where we tend to see lower uptake.”

Flu kills on average 11,000 people in England each year and hospitalises many more. Adults at high risk from flu are also most at risk from Covid-19 and the free vaccine is important to help protect the nation from a double threat this winter.

This year, the programme is being expanded to help protect people from flu and ease pressure on the NHS and urgent care services. The health system is working to provide the free flu vaccine to 30 million people, the highest number on record:

• All primary school children and, for the first time, Year 7 children will be offered the flu ‘nasal spray’ in schools to reduce community transmission. Two and three-year olds will be offered the vaccine through their GP.

• The most vulnerable, including adults aged 65 and over, those with long-term health conditions and pregnant women, will be offered the flu vaccine first through their GP or pharmacy.

• The flu vaccine will also be offered to household contacts of people on the NHS Shielded Patient List and all health and all social care workers who have direct contact with the people they care for.

• Once uptake has been maximised in the most at-risk groups, the newly eligible 50-64-year olds will be invited for vaccination later in the season. Anyone who is 50-64 years old with long-term health condition should be vaccinated earlier in the season, in line with all others in risk groups.

Dr Slade added: “You can transmit flu without symptoms. By getting the jab, you are not only protecting yourself but others. Getting your flu jab will also help take pressure off the NHS and social care this winter.”

His call for eligible people to get vaccinated against flu came as new research from Public Health England (PHE) suggests the risk of death more than doubled for people who tested positive for both flu and Covid-19, compared to those with Covid-19 alone. The research, looking at cases between January and April this year, also found that those with co-infection of the two viruses were more at risk of severe illness. Most cases of co-infection were in older people and more than half of them died.

Overall, nearly two thirds of eligible people received their free vaccine last year, making uptake rates in England among the highest in Europe. To help increase uptake in the social care sector, for the first time pharmacists will be able to vaccinate both residents and care home staff at the same time.