There’s always a subtle sense of dread in the air as summer turns to autumn.
The dark nights and cold weather are a stark reminder that the UK’s dreary winter will soon be upon us.
Except now, that feeling of dread is not so subtle.
While flu season comes around every year, just has it has for decades, there’s now a fear attached to this time of year.
With this year being the first that flu and coronavirus will be circulating at the same time without lockdown restrictions, some people are feeling hypervigilant: a recent survey found that two in three (66%) adults in England said they would get the flu jab if offered.
Last year also saw record numbers of flu vaccine uptake among over-65s (80%) and two- and three-year-olds (54.0% and 56.5%).
With worries about an overwhelmed NHS and a need to protect vulnerable populations mounting, some people, like 23-year-old Oliver, from Sheffield, are considering getting a flu vaccine this year despite not being eligible for a free jab.
‘[The flu jab] prevents transmission and the Covid vaccine has really made herd immunity something I’m more conscious of,’ Oliver tells Metro.co.uk.
‘I’ve been very aware that, even though I’m quite laissez-faire about my own health, other people don’t get to be so relaxed.
‘Now if I get sick, I’m worried about the risk of passing it on to someone who is immunocompromised.’
And, he adds, ‘after the last couple of years, I can’t be bothered losing any more time being ill.’
London-based Georgia, 28, echoes this sentiment. Despite having never had the flu jab, and never being eligible, she has been considering getting her jab this year, paid for by the company her partner works for.
‘I’m not one for doing extensive research on these things, but I just thought that considering those more vulnerable to illnesses have always been encouraged to get a flu jab, it seemed like a good way to better protect myself and those around me this winter,’ she says.
‘I don’t really mind having to get injections so the thought of continuing to have a Covid vaccine booster or flu jab doesn’t bother me at all,’ she adds.
‘If more vaccines mean we can all be healthy, protect others and get on with our lives then, why not?’
So should you be thinking about getting the flu vaccine this year?
Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, said: ‘Not many people got flu last year because of Covid-19 restrictions, so there isn’t as much natural immunity in our communities as usual. We will see flu circulate this winter; it might be higher than usual and that makes it a significant public health concern.
‘Covid-19 will still be circulating and with more people mixing indoors, sadly some increases are possible. For the first time we will have Covid-19 and flu co-circulating. We need to take this seriously and defend ourselves and the NHS by getting the annual flu jab and the Covid-19 booster when called.
‘Both these viruses are serious: they can both spread easily, cause hospitalisation and they can both be fatal. It is really important that people get their vaccines as soon as they can.’
Dr Jenny Harries, Chief Executive of the UK Health Security Agency, said: ‘Getting vaccinated against both viruses will not only help to protect us and our loved ones, but will also help protect the NHS from potential strain this winter.
‘We are facing a challenging winter but we can all help ourselves and those around us by taking up the Covid-19 booster and flu vaccine, if eligible.’
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