As the weather gets colder, more of us naturally take to gather indoors, especially as the festive celebrations get underway. However, the reality is that with Covid-19 and flu around, the most vulnerable amongst us, including those with long-term health conditions, are still at risk of getting seriously ill from these viruses.
There are many health conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular and kidney diseases that put people at increased risk of flu and Covid-19, which is why they are eligible for a free flu vaccine and a Covid-19 booster.
“It’s so important that myself and people around me are vaccinated to keep us all healthy and safe”. Says Nadia Ali, a BBC broadcaster whose husband has Crohn’s disease, a long-term health condition with treatment that means his immune system is compromised, and sadly lost both grandmothers to Covid. “After having our vaccines, this autumn we feel a lot safer as a family. I now have the freedom to socialise, which is important because my job means I am always around people.”
Like many people living with someone whose immunity is compromised, Nadia is acutely aware she needs to help protect him by having these essential vaccines. She is one of many millions across the UK who have had both their Covid-19 booster and flu jab this autumn/winter season.
Data shows that protection provided by Covid-19 vaccines decreases over time, so it is essential to keep your immunity ‘topped up’ by having a Covid-19 booster this autumn/winter. The flu virus can change each year and can cause severe illness and hospitalisation for those most at risk, so those eligible also need a flu vaccine every year. Unvaccinated people are at a much higher risk of being hospitalised with Covid-19 or flu. Vaccines are our best protection.
This winter, the NHS is urging those with certain long term health conditions to get their Covid-19 booster and flu vaccine now. Evidence shows that, for example, those with diabetes are six times more likely to die from flu and are also at higher risk from Covid-19, whilst those with heart disease are 11 times more likely to die from flu and are also at increased risk from Covid-19.
Dr Henna Anwar, a GP in West Yorkshire who has been active within the community encouraging vaccine uptake, said: “There are a number of health conditions that are more common within the South Asian community like diabetes or coronary heart disease that put them at higher risk of serious illness and even hospitalisation from Covid-19 and flu. That’s why it’s so important that we encourage people with these conditions to protect themselves by getting vaccinated.”
“I am a firm believer that prevention is better than cure. These vaccines offer the best protection from Covid-19 and flu, they have good safety records, and millions of people have had them globally. We owe it to each other as a community to do everything we can within our power to protect not just ourselves but each other, and these vaccines offer a way to do this”.
More mixing indoors and intergenerational living can also increase the spread of these viruses, especially among children. That’s why young children are eligible for the free flu nasal spray vaccine.
Kirit Mistry, the founder of South Asian Health Action, has type 2 diabetes, along with his twin. His twin was in ICU for almost two weeks with Covid-19, and now suffers from long Covid. Kirit also lost his cousin, aged 42, from Bradford to Covid. He knows the importance of protecting himself and his brother, and said, “Last year, I was unable to travel and do things like swimming, but now both my brother and I can continue to enjoy what we love with confidence and peace of mind. Soon I will be in India, so to protect myself and others, I recently had my Covid-19 booster and flu vaccine.”
“Misinformation has prevented many people with long term health conditions from making the right choices. I strongly advise them to speak to healthcare professionals and get their flu vaccine and Covid-19 booster. They are offered these vaccines to provide the very best protection that they need due to their health condition.”
To find out if you’re eligible for a free flu vaccine and Covid-19 booster and to book your appointments, visit: nhs.uk/wintervaccinations