Dr Hilary believes flu is 'more of a risk' than Covid this winter
More than ten million flu vaccines have been administered so far in the fastest rollout to date, NHS figures reveal.
Seven million Covid jabs have also been given – with three million people receiving a double whammy of both inoculations during the same appointment.
Health chiefs said the speedy delivery meant over a third of winter vaccinations had been completed for those eligible.
Steve Russell, NHS England’s chief delivery officer and national director for vaccinations and screening, said: “These uptake figures are very encouraging and show the NHS is making excellent progress in helping those most at risk of life-threatening flu and Covid-19 viruses get the protection they need this winter, but we want to ensure even more people are booking appointments.”
Vaccination teams have also made their rounds at care homes with record speed this year, offering Covid jabs at more than 80 percent of facilities in England.
However, millions of people who have not yet maximised their defences are being urged to come forward.
A total of 30 million in England are entitled to free flu jabs and more than 20 million to Covid boosters. Groups that qualify for both include all over 65s, pregnant women, people with certain health conditions and frontline healthcare staff.
There were 4,205 patients in hospital with Covid as of October 8 – a five-month high and up 14 percent on the previous week.
Mr Russell added: “We know things start to get more pressured for the NHS at this time of year – this year even more so than others with industrial action.
“Vaccination is one of the best ways to prevent people from getting sick this winter and with hundreds of thousands of vaccine appointments available, I urge everyone eligible to please come forward and book your vaccinations today.”
The update came as an Australian expert urged Britons not to underestimate the seriousness of flu and get their jabs.
Dr Jonathan Anderson is executive medical director CSL Seqirus, one of the world’s leading providers of influenza vaccines with sites in Liverpool, the US and Australia.
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Speaking from Melbourne, he told the Daily Express that Australia had seen a return to more normal seasonal patterns this year. The country experiences its winter earlier, from June to August, and can provide an insight into what the UK should expect.
Dr Anderson said this year’s flu season had been “interesting”. He explained: “It seemed to start relatively early, but unlike the previous year where it peaked very early and then fell away, it was a fairly consistent pattern of flu cases through the whole season.
“And it’s been a longer season overall, compared with the previous year. While we didn’t have such a large spike at the start of the season, the number of cases that were notified was about the same as the previous year.”
The short, sharp peak in cases Australia saw last year was “quite unprecedented” and may have been a result of lower exposure during the pandemic, Dr Anderson said.
He added: “We’re starting to see a return to more normal patterns of unpredictable infection.
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“We can never predict the future but if we look at southern hemisphere seasons, they often lead into a very similar northern hemisphere season.
“So what I can predict is that flu is likely to circulate, and it can cause a significant number of people to get sick.”
Dr Anderson warned that flu is not a common cold and can ramp up pressure on already swamped health services.
He added: “Flu is a serious infection. See your doctor or pharmacist about ways to protect yourself against it.”
Health minister Maria Caulfield, said: “With the vaccination programme rolling out earlier this year, I’m delighted that over 18 million Covid and flu jabs have been administered, with three million people getting jabbed in the same appointment and taking the important step to protect themselves and their loved ones this winter.
“Our NHS staff are doing a wonderful job and the National Booking System is now open so, if you are eligible, please do take up the offer and get your Covid and flu jabs as soon as possible.”
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