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UKHSA warns of early and severe flu season

UKHSA warns of early and severe flu season

This year’s flu season is likely to be severe and strike early, Government public health experts have warned.

The UK could also face a ‘twindemic’ of Covid and flu infections this winter, with both infections expected to circle widely, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) warned.

Reduced social mixing during the Covid-19 pandemic has led to lower levels of natural immunity to the flu this year, especially amongst children below the age of five, making the population especially susceptible to infection, it said.

Under the flu vaccination enhanced service, GP practices are required to do call and recall for children aged 2 and 3 years old; those aged 50 and over; and those aged 6 months to 50 years in a clinical at-risk group, said technical guidance published this week.

They are also ‘strongly encouraged’ to invite the 50- 64 year old cohorts that do not fall into the at risk category for vaccination once eligible.

Meanwhile, UKHSA warned that the H3N2 influenza subtype is currently the most widely circulating worldwide and has already caused early waves of infection in southern hemisphere countries like Australia.

Coupled with expected growing levels of Covid-19 in circulation, NHS director for vaccinations and screening Steve Russell said this winter ‘could be the first time we see the effects of the so-called twindemic’ of flu and Covid-19.

With 33 million people offered a flu jab and 26 million offered an autumn Covid booster vaccination this year, Mr Russell urged those eligible to ‘come forward for vaccines in order to protect themselves and those around them’.

Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical advisor at UKHSA, warned the flu H3N2 subtype ‘can cause particularly severe illness’, and in combination with widely circulating Covid variants this ‘poses a serious risk to our health’.

The last time H3N2 was dominant in the UK, in 2017-18, there were 41,730 flu-related hospital admissions in England and approximately 22,000 excess deaths.

However, early evidence from Australia suggests that current flu vaccines are well matched to the current subtypes in circulation and can provide effective protection against severe illness.

Dr Hopkins added: ‘Most eligible groups have been selected because they are at higher risk of severe illness. Younger children are unlikely to have built up any natural immunity to flu and therefore it is particularly important they take the nasal spray vaccine this year.’

Earlier this week, UKHSA warned that vaccinators should leave a seven-day gap between the flu jab and the Novavax Covid-19 vaccination.

In September, Pfizer’s new bivalent vaccine targeting the Omicron Covid variant was added to the autumn booster campaign.

Over two million Covid booster jabs had already been given to patients two weeks into the autumn campaign, as Covid infection numbers have begun to rise once again.

A version of this article was first published by Pulse’s sister title Nursing in Practice


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Patrufini Duffy 28 September, 2022 5:22 pm

100% – they’re drinking pints and prosecco in T-shirts outside, and privilege impedes a mask.
Thus, watch out for an utter show. The aversion of pharmacy, but happy to visit the nightclub but work from home. Tonsillitis seems like Armageddon to some. Can I drink on those antibiotics?

David Jenner 29 September, 2022 9:53 am

Related to this , we see a provider engagement exercise to potentially tender off ALL vaccinations to another provider , AND a public consultation on NHSE website closing 13/10 on the future of vacciantion services.
Be sure to complete the survey and get your patient groups to do as well . However we need clarity NOW on whether we should be ordering flu vaccines for 2023 . NHSE , let us know or you may end up with no GPs having flu vaccines next year !

David Church 29 September, 2022 10:31 am

Anything to increase pharma profits from more jabs given as a result of spreading fear in the population of ‘flu – and yet….. not willing to put any real effort into eliminating the greater risks to the health and prosperity of the UK economy posed by ongoing Covid infections, out of control again and causing many kinds of disability and dumbing-down the populationby a 7-IQ-point drop for each symptomatic infection.
Although given the multiple international rebukes from world leaders and panic at the Bank of England, perhaps the current Chancellor and PM are greater risk to economy and thus health in Britain? When will it be safe to fly to China?