Guest Article – Public Health Wales
Public Health Wales is urging all eligible people in Wales to have their free NHS flu and COVID-19 booster vaccines when the NHS in Wales begins its biggest ever national winter vaccinations programme.
As the global pandemic continues, the impact of COVID-19 on the nation has been significant, but flu (also known as influenza) can be serious too. The chances of becoming seriously ill with COVID-19 or flu are greatly reduced by vaccination, as are the risks of spreading these viruses.
Vaccination is particularly important for those who are older, pregnant, or have a health condition and are more vulnerable to complications as a result of the infections. It is also very important that frontline healthcare workers and those who work in care homes or providing care in peoples own homes get their vaccines to help reduce spread.
Dr Christopher Johnson, Consultant Epidemiologist and Interim Head of Public Health Wales’ Vaccine Preventable Disease Programme explains: “It is well known that having a flu vaccine every year is one of the most effective ways to protect against flu. Likewise the COVID-19 booster vaccination extends the protection against infection in individuals in those eligible groups that completed their primary course of the COVID-19 vaccinations earlier this year.
“The process is simple and effective. For most eligible groups the flu vaccines are available from either General Practice or Community Pharmacy. Separate arrangements are in place for infants, school-age children and NHS and social care staff. Most COVID-19 booster vaccinations will be offered at the existing mass vaccination centres, with invitations issued by local Health Boards.”
Those eligible for free NHS flu and COVID-19 vaccines are set out in advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI). The groups for each are similar but are not exact matches. The full JCVI recommendations are available online for flu and the COVID-19 booster programme.
To encourage uptake of these vaccines, Public Health Wales has launched a campaign based on the theme of ‘help keep your life open’ as a result of having the vaccines when offered. It features a new TV and radio advert as well as social media and digital content and runs from 28 September, with the TV advert first airing from 4 October.
Winter is coming and it's time to protect yourself and others. Get your flu and COVID-19 vaccines. Help keep your life open.
— Public Health Wales (@PublicHealthW) September 29, 2021
Minister for Health and Social Services, Eluned Morgan, said: “Health and social care services continue to work hard to protect us and our loved ones from the challenges of the pandemic. We are concerned about a perfect storm of both flu and COVID-19 this winter, and are doing everything to prepare.
“This year we are extending our flu vaccination programme to include all those over 50 years old and between years 7 to 11 in the schools programme. Our Covid 19 booster programme has already begun to be rolled out and I strongly urge those who are eligible to have their vaccines as soon as possible to help protect themselves, their families and their community.”
Flu and COVID-19 viruses spread easily, and can be very serious for older people, young children, pregnant women and those with health conditions.
“Thankfully last year the flu season was mild,” continues Dr Johnson, “but most years it results in outbreaks in care homes and hospitals, and we generally see hundreds of people being admitted to hospital or intensive care units with flu. We also know from our experiences with COVID-19 just how devastating its effects can be.
“I would therefore reassure those who are eligible but miss their appointments for any reason not to panic. Appointments can be rearranged by contacting the organisation that issued your original invitation and requesting a new date,” he concludes.
To help stop flu and other viruses spreading, remember to ‘Catch it, Bin it, Kill it.’
For more information how vaccines protect you, and about the symptoms of flu and COVID-19, visit phw.nhs.wales/vaccines
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