30 millions Bris have been urged to have flu and Covid boosters before the winter sets-in to avoid a “twindemic”.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said people should protect themselves against H3N2 – a subtype of influenza type A – and coronavirus, before expected resurgences of both happens in colder months.
H3N2 is currently the most-common for of flu, and recently had waves in Australia, while it circulated in the UK last year, but was limited in impact due to Covid restrictions.
With the lifting of restrictions in 2022, older Brits are being warned there is less protection. The UKHSA added there was record update for the free flu jab last year with 82 per cent of over-65s getting it, but there was less uptake among groups who were still vulnerable, such as pregnant women.
It also said there are indications that covid rates are beginning to rise again, while millions of people’s protection from jabs are wearing off.
A study from earlier in the pandemic suggests that catching both, known as co-infection, makes someone twice as likely to die, compared to someone with only Covid.
“This winter could be the first time we see the effects of the so called ‘twindemic’”, said NHS director for vaccinations and screening, Steve Russell.
“It is vital that those most susceptible to serious illness from these viruses come forward for vaccines in order to protect themselves and those around them.”
“If you have been offered a flu vaccination or COVID-19 booster you should book in as soon as possible and with more vaccination centres than ever before this year, they are quick, convenient and will provide vital protection this winter.”
The call was echoed by Dr Susan Hopkins, Chief Medical Advisor at UKHSA, who said both viruses are “are unpredictable but there are strong indications we could be facing the threat of widely circulating flu, lower levels of natural immunity due to less exposure over the last three winters and an increase in COVID-19 circulating with lots of variants that can evade the immune response.”
“This combination poses a serious risk to our health, particularly those in high-risk groups.”
Saying the flu strain can “cause particularly severe illness” she said “getting the flu jab is a sensible, potentially life-saving thing to do.”