In Brief

Why flu jabs could help fight a second wave of coronavirus

Government wants to ‘escape the nightmare’ of simultaneous flu and Covid infections

The government is preparing to vaccinate 30 million people against common flu this year, introducing new jabs for 11-year-olds and those over 50.

The reach of the programme will be doubled in an attempt to mitigate the impact on the NHS this winter.

There are concerns that people could suffer from Covid-19 and seasonal flu at the same time, resulting in the health service becoming overwhelmed if there is a second wave of the coronavirus, says Sky News.

The government is acting to “escape the nightmare scenario of a bad flu season alongside a resurgence of the coronavirus”, says The Guardian.

“It’s mission critical that we pull out all the stops to get ready for winter,” said Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

“We are now taking another important step to help protect the wider public by giving the flu vaccination to more people than ever before. This will be the biggest flu vaccination programme in history, and will help protect our NHS as we head into winter.

“If you are eligible for a free vaccine, whether it’s for the first time or because you usually receive one, then I would urge you to get it, not just to protect yourself, but to protect the NHS and your loved ones, from flu.”

Last year, around 15 million people received a seasonal flu jab, including over 65s, pregnant woman, and those with medical conditions such as asthma, heart disease and kidney disease. Care home residents and workers also received the jab.

This year, the government will roll out free jabs to Year Seven school pupils and those on the NHS shielded patient list. Over 50s will also be given the jab in phases, with the most vulnerable getting priority vaccination, reports the BBC.

Government sources say the UK has secured sufficient supplies of the latest flu vaccine, but there are concerns that not all GP surgeries will have the fridge space needed to store the number of doses they will need, says Sky News.

Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, stressed the harm flu can do. “Flu can have serious consequences and vulnerable people can die of it. Having the vaccine protects you, and helps reduce transmission to others,” he said.

“This winter more than ever, with Covid-19 still circulating, we need to help reduce all avoidable risks. Vaccinating more people will help reduce flu transmission and stop people becoming ill.”

Influenza causes an estimated one billion illnesses and up to 650,000 related deaths each year, according to the World Health Organization.

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