MILLIONS of frontline NHS staff are being urged to “do their bit” and get a flu jab when they become available over the coming days.
England’s chief nurse, Ruth May, warned medics “it’s never been more vital” to get vaccinated against flu – as Covid-19 continues to circulate.
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It comes as the NHS prepares to roll out its biggest ever flu vaccination programme – with more than 30 million offered free shots ahead of winter.
Experts are concerned about the impact of a double whammy of Covid-19 cases and seasonal flu potentially overwhelming the NHS.
There are also worries people could suffer both seasonal flu and Covid-19 at the same time.
Frontline staff are at higher risk of catching flu due to their contact with patients and those they care for.
With the first batches of this year’s vaccines arriving from this week, clinics will be able to start administering the jab.
The Government’s aim is to ensure every single eligible member of NHS staff is able to get the vaccine this year.
For the first time, frontline social care workers will also be included in the scheme with pharmacists authorised to carry out jabs at their places of work to make it even easier to get vaccinated.
Ms May, the chief nursing officer for England, has penned an open letter to frontline staff urging them to protect themselves – and vulnerable patients.
She said: “Every year we urge our colleagues to protect themselves, their families and their patients by taking up the free flu jab, and every year more and more do – but this year’s call is the most vital we have ever made.
“The flu has a serious impact on the health of thousands of people every winter, and with the added risk of Covid-19 this year the NHS needs as many of its staff as possible to be fighting fit over the coming months.
“And even more importantly, just as we are making every effort to stop the spread of coronavirus in our hospitals, so we must also do the same for flu.
With the added risk of Covid-19 this year the NHS needs as many of its staff as possible to be fighting fit over the coming months
“Getting a vaccine is the single most effective way every member of our staff can contribute to this.”
Overall, a record 74.3 per cent of NHS staff took up the vaccine through their employer last year.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “This year has seen an incredible effort from our doctors, our nurses, our carers and everyone working on the frontline to protect us from coronavirus.
“Now getting a free flu jab this winter will protect them, as well as their patients and the people they care for, at a critical time for our country.
“Last year saw more health care workers than ever before getting their flu jab.
“This year we can go further so that all of our brilliant frontline NHS and social care staff can get the flu vaccine as standard – so that together we can meet the unique challenge we face this winter.”
Professor Yvonne Doyle, medical director at Public Health England said: “If you’re a frontline health or care professional, getting your flu jab is the most effective way to protect yourself and those you care for from what can be a serious and even fatal illness.
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“This year, it is more important than ever to get your flu jab with Covid-19 still in circulation.
“Flu can require hospitalisation, which would add pressure on the NHS and social care when they may also be dealing with cases of Covid-19.
“Getting your flu jab is easy and takes just a few minutes, but it could save someone’s life.”