Professor Jonathan Van-Tam urges Brits ‘defend yourselves’ as flu is back with a war on the seasonal bug to see 35million brits offered a free jab – modelling shows there could be 60,000 winter deaths due to low immunity after lockdowns
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Professor Jonathan Van-Tam today warns Britons to get jabbed as a war on flu begins.
Immunity against bugs is so low after lockdowns that they could kill 60,000, expert modelling reveals.
Free flu jabs will be offered to 35 million most at risk.
JVT says: “Defend yourselves.”
The NHS has launched a mission to defend Britain against flu this winter as modelling suggests it could claim up to 60,000 lives.
Prof Jonathan Van-Tam today issues a rallying cry to the nation to “defend ourselves” with jabs as there is such little natural immunity against bugs.
The Government is planning for the reasonable worst case scenario for the first winter of many where Covid-19 and flu are “co-circulating”.
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An expanded flu vaccination programme will mean 35 million people being offered free jabs.
For the first time, those eligible for them will include all secondary school pupils up to Year 11 aged 15 and 16. People aged 50 to 64 will be able to get them this winter after they became eligible for the first time last year.
The newly formed UK Health Security Agency cited modelling from the Academy of Medical Sciences which predicts between 15,000 and 60,000 flu deaths this winter.
It said a widespread flu vaccination drive could help reduce the risk.
Prof Van-Tam, England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, said: “Not many people got flu last year because of Covid-19 restrictions, so there isn’t as much natural immunity in our communities as usual.
“We will see flu circulate this winter. It might be higher than usual and that makes it a significant public health concern. Covid-19 will still be circulating and with more people mixing indoors, sadly some increases are possible. For the first time we will have Covid-19 and flu co-circulating.
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“We need to take this seriously and defend ourselves and the NHS by getting the annual flu jab and the Covid-19 booster when called. Both these viruses are serious. They can both spread easily, cause hospitalisation and they can both be fatal.
“It is really important that people get their vaccines as soon as they can.”
The flu deaths modelling for this winter compares to an average annual flu death toll of 11,000. These will come on top of winter deaths from Covid-19, for which no reliable modelling has yet been published.
Deaths within 28 days of a positive test are currently running at around 1,100 a week and are expected to increase. The UK reported a further 122 Covid deaths yesterday.
Around 30 million Britons are being invited for Covid-19 booster shots, and around two million have been administered so far.
The AMS report brought together 29 experts at the request of Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance to forecast risks to health this winter.
Scientists in the northern hemisphere have to predict what strains of flu to vaccinate against by looking at what is circulating in the southern hemisphere before manufacturing starts each February.
As so few flu samples could be taken last year in countries such as Australia – which had strict Covid restrictions in place – it is likely that the UK’s flu vaccines will be less effective this year.The report also highlights the NHS is reporting a shortage of nearly 84,000 staff, and 2,500 GPs.
It states: “staff fatigue and burnout will be a challenge.”
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “This year we are rolling out the largest flu vaccine programme in our history, alongside the new Covid-19 booster vaccine rollout.
“Both are important to provide vital protection not only to yourself, but also your loved ones while also helping to ease pressure on the NHS. It is vital all those eligible get both as soon as they are invited.”
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A poll of 3,000 people has found a quarter did not know flu can be fatal.
The UK reported 40,701 more positive Covid-19 tests yesterday, with case rates among Europe’s highest.
Prof Tim Spector, of King’s College London, said: “Much more focus needs to be put on getting every-one vaccinated before winter.”