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Eligible people urged to get vaccinated as flu season officially under way

Flu cases have risen to levels not seen before COVID-19 pandemic, with all eligible people now urged to come forward.

So far this year, flu vaccine uptake in eligible groups is similar to the last couple of years, although there is a particular need for pre-schoolers, pregnant women and those in the health and social care workforces to take up the offer.

Latest UKHSA data shows there have been jumps in emergency department flu attendances and hospital admissions in the last week. The intensive care admission rate is now higher for flu than for COVID-19.In the week 14 to 20 November 2022:

  • The hospital admission rate for flu increased to 24 per million population, up from 15 per million the previous week. The highest rates were in the under 5s followed by the 75 years plus group. The COVID-19 rate was 44 per million population

  • The intensive care and high dependency care for influenza increased to 21 per 10 million population compared to 13 per 10 million population in the previous week. The highest rates were in the under 5s followed by the 65 years plus group. The COVID-19 rate was 17 per 10 million population

Those aged 2 and 3 years old are eligible for nasal spray flu vaccines, with parents and guardians also urged to book appointments to ensure the younger age group is protected.

With both flu and COVID-19 cases both circulating this winter, it is also vital all those eligible get both vaccines as soon as possible.

Due to the increase in levels of flu circulating in the community, UKHSA has recommended that it is now appropriate for antiviral medicines to be prescribed in primary care settings.

Those eligible for antivirals if they have flu include patients in clinical at-risk groups as well as any who are at risk of severe illness and complications from flu if not treated. This includes people in those groups who present with symptoms of flu and those who have been exposed to flu-like illnesses from someone they live with, including residents of care homes.

Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, said:

"Flu and COVID-19 are both circulating. We are currently seeing higher rates of flu at this time of year than usual.

It is important those eligible have their flu jab as soon as they can. Vaccines are the best defence against these viruses. The most effective approach is to get vaccinated before it is circulating at very high rates.

As flu cases have risen and in order to protect the most vulnerable – in line with pre-COVID flu seasons antiviral medicines can now be prescribed in primary care settings such as GPs and pharmacies to those eligible who are most at risk to the complications of flu"

Please click here to read full guidance and flu information.

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