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Urgent Rollout of Flu and Coronavirus Vaccines

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NHS England are pushing forward with an urgent roll out of flu and covid vaccinations

In light of the emergence of a new Covid variant, known as BA.2.86, health authorities around the world are taking proactive measures to protect people.

 

Scientists from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) have been closely monitoring this variant, which was first detected in August. The BA.2.86 variant has raised concerns due to its high mutation rate and the potential for it to infect individuals who have previously been vaccinated against Covid.

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As a precautionary measure, an earlier rollout of flu and coronavirus vaccines has been initiated to boost immunity and minimize the risk of severe illness.

Health Minister Maria Colette Caulfield said: “As our world-leading scientists gather more information on the BA.2.86 variant, it makes sense to bring forward the vaccination programme.



“It is absolutely vital the most vulnerable groups receive a vaccine to strengthen their immunity over winter to protect themselves and reduce pressure on the NHS.”

The decision to accelerate the vaccination program is based on the assessment of UKHSA scientists, who have highlighted the increased risk posed by the BA.2.86 variant.

Dame Jenny Harries, UKHSA chief executive, said: “As we continue to live with Covid-19 we expect to see new variants emerge. Thanks to the success of our vaccine programme, we have built strong, broad immune defences against new variants throughout the population. However, some people remain more vulnerable to severe illness from Covid-19. This precautionary measure to bring forward the autumn programme will ensure these people have protection against any potential wave this winter.

“There is limited information available at present on BA.2.86 so the potential impact of this particular variant is difficult to estimate. As with all emergent and circulating Covid-19 variants we will continue to monitor BA.2.86 and to advise Government and the public as we learn more. In the meantime, please come forward for the vaccine when you are called.”

Steve Russell, the vaccinations director of NHS England, emphasized the importance of vaccinating as many people as possible against Covid at an earlier stage.

Professor Sir Stephen Powis, NHS England medical director, said: “Vaccinations are our best defence against flu and Covid-19 ahead of what could be a very challenging winter. With the potential for this new covid variant to increase the risk of infection, we are following the latest expert guidance and bringing the covid vaccination programme forward, with people able to get their flu vaccine at the same time to maximise protection. The NHS will work quickly to offer people protection against these nasty viruses as soon as possible.”

While the peak season for flu and Covid usually occurs in December and January, the new variant presents a greater risk now. By administering the vaccines sooner, health authorities aim to strengthen immunity and protect vulnerable individuals, thereby reducing the burden on healthcare systems.

To ensure that the most vulnerable groups are prioritized, a phased approach to vaccination has been adopted. The eligibility criteria for flu and Covid vaccines are as follows:

 

Flu Vaccine Eligibility

    Individuals aged 65 years and over

    : This age group is at higher risk of complications from flu and is therefore eligible for the vaccine.

    Individuals aged 6 months to under 65 years in clinical risk groups

    : People with underlying medical conditions that increase their vulnerability to flu are eligible for the vaccine.

 

    Pregnant women

    : Pregnant women are at a higher risk of severe illness from flu and are encouraged to receive the vaccine.

    Children aged 2 or 3 years on August 31, 2023

    : Young children in this age group are eligible for the flu vaccine.

 

    School-aged children (Reception to Year 11)

    : This includes children attending primary and secondary schools.

 

    Residents in long-stay residential care homes

    : Individuals residing in care homes are eligible for the flu vaccine.

 

    Carers

    : Individuals in receipt of carer’s allowance or those who are the main carer of an elderly or disabled person can receive the vaccine.

 

    Close contacts of immunocompromised individuals

    : People who have close contact with individuals who have weakened immune systems are eligible for the vaccine.

 

    Frontline workers in social care settings

    : Workers in registered residential care or nursing homes, domiciliary care providers, and voluntary managed hospice providers are eligible for the vaccine.

 

Autumn Covid Vaccine Eligibility

 

    Residents in care homes for older adults

    : Individuals residing in care homes for older adults are eligible for the autumn Covid vaccine.

 

    Adults aged 65 years and over

    : This age group is prioritized for the Covid vaccine.

 

    Individuals aged 6 months to 64 years in clinical risk groups

    : People with underlying medical conditions that increase their vulnerability to Covid are eligible for the vaccine.

 

    Frontline health and social care workers

    : Healthcare professionals and social care workers on the frontline are eligible for the Covid vaccine.

 

    Household contacts of immunocompromised individuals

    : Individuals living with people who have weakened immune systems are eligible for the vaccine.

 

    Carers and staff working in care homes for older adults

    : Carers and staff members in care homes for older adults are eligible for the Covid vaccine.

 

It is crucial for eligible individuals to come forward and receive the vaccines to strengthen their immunity and protect themselves against the new variant.

 

Symptoms of the New Variant

The symptoms associated with the BA.2.86 variant is similar to those of previous strains. Individuals infected with this variant may experience:

 

    Cough

    Headache

    Muscle aches

    Sore throat

    Fatigue

    Fever or chills

    Congestion or runny nose

    Nausea or vomiting

    Diarrhoea

    Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

 

The decision to bring forward the autumn vaccination program is driven by the potential impact of the BA.2.86 variant. Although it is not currently classified as a variant of concern, health authorities believe that accelerating the vaccination campaign will provide greater protection against the variant.

By offering flu and Covid vaccines in the same appointment, individuals can maximize their protection against these viruses. The NHS is committed to providing quick and efficient vaccination services to ensure the safety and well-being of the population.

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