Millions of people will be invited to get their flu vaccine from this week as part of the biggest annual flu drive in NHS history.
Around 1.25 million texts and 300,000 emails have already been sent to parents of two and three-year-olds urging them to book an appointment for their children, ahead of what the health service says could be one of its most challenging winters ever.
A further 1.3 million letters will be landing on door steps this weekend outlining how parents can book the vaccine, which can be given to young children at their local GP practice through a nose spray which is quick and painless.
Around 35 million people in England are eligible for a free jab this year, with millions of people already taking up the offer by booking an appointment at their local GP practice or attending a pharmacy.
People who are eligible include all adults over 50, people with certain long-term health conditions, pregnant women, health and social care frontline workers and carers. Those aged 50 to 65 will receive their invitations shortly.
The expansion of the flu programme comes alongside warnings that there could be a 50% increase in cases of flu this year.
Following one of the busiest summers on record for the NHS staff, health bosses are urging people to get their flu vaccine and covid booster vaccine ahead.
The covid booster rollout is well underway with the NHS delivering more than two million top up jabs – less than one month since the JCVI updated their guidance.
GP and medical director of Primary Care at NHS England Dr Nikki Kanani said: “Every year, we vaccinate more and more staff and patients against flu, but this year it is more vital than ever that all children and eligible adults take up the offer of the free vaccine, as we head into one of the most challenging winters yet for the NHS.
“The flu has a serious impact on the health of thousands of people every winter, and getting your child vaccinated will protect them, and help to stop the spread of the virus to your most vulnerable family members and loved ones, so I would urge everyone to book an appointment for their child with their GP practice as soon as possible.”
Even if your child had a flu vaccination last year, the type of flu can vary each winter, so it is recommended to have the flu vaccine again this year or they won’t be protected.
This year the nasal spray flu vaccine is free on the NHS for:
- children aged 2 or 3 years on 31 August 2021 – born between 1 September 2017 and 31 August 2019
- all primary school children (reception to year 6)
- all year 7 to year 11 children in secondary school
- children aged 2 to 17 years with long-term health conditions
Flu symptoms can appear very quickly and include a high temperature about 38C, aching an aching body, feeling exhausted, sore throat and runny nose and loss of appetite. Children may also become less active and get ear pain.
Some people may be eligible for both the flu and the Covid-19 booster vaccines, with research showing if people get Covid and flu at the same time you are likely to become seriously ill.