An update from Practice Nurse Team Lead Sue Mensforth
Every autumn, the NHS commits significant resources to get people vaccinated against flu.
Last year, against the backdrop of Covid and mounting pressures on the NHS, more people than ever before were offered a free NHS flu shot.
In 2021, with the pandemic still with us despite the successful rollout of Covid vaccines, it’s vital everyone eligible for a free flu jab gets one.
Here is everything you need to know about this year’s flu season.
Who can get a free flu shot?
The extended eligibility from 2020 will continue. This means anyone aged 50 or older will still be entitled to get a free vaccine. As a temporary measure in 2021, school children up to 15 will also be offered the jab by the NHS.
Anyone in the following groups will be eligible:
- all children aged 2 to 15 (but not 16 years or older) on 31 August 2021
- those aged six months to under 50 years in clinical risk groups
- pregnant women
- those aged 50 years and over
- those in long-stay residential care homes
- close contacts of immunocompromised individuals
- frontline health and social care staff
For school-age children who are low risk – by that I mean without any pre-existing health conditions – vaccines will be given by School Nurses during the autumn term.
Pregnant women will be offered their jab either by one of the Practice Nurse team or by their midwife.
Why getting vaccinated is so important.
Vaccines have obviously been big news in the last year, and I’m sure everyone now has a better understanding of how and why they work.
Vaccines help our bodies learn how to defend themselves against diseases by creating antibodies. This means if we become exposed to a virus, our immune systems respond immediately, greatly reducing the chance of getting ill or spreading infections to other people.
That is why, along with the most clinically vulnerable, carers and frontline health and social care workers are prioritised – to reduce the chances of them infecting the people they care for.
Record numbers of people were vaccinated against flu last year, including over 80% of people aged 65 or older. Due to things like social distancing, mask-wearing and restricted travel, flu cases were lower than expected last year. While this is good, it also means that natural immunity is now lower, suggesting that this year’s flu season could be significantly bigger than before.
So this autumn and winter, the NHS will be working on getting as many people vaccinated as possible, and we encourage everyone eligible for the free flu shot to get one.
How and when to book your flu shot
We plan to hold flu clinics on Saturday 11th and Saturday 25 September, and Saturday 9 October. These will be held at Holy Name Church Hall in Jesmond, as we did last year. Please wait for a further update from us when you can book an appointment.