The NHS Autumn Winter vaccine programme, which started on the 11th September, is working quickly to ensure as many eligible people as possible are protected against flu and COVID-19 over the winter months by the end of October 2023.
Included in the list of ‘clinically at risk’ individuals being offered the winter vaccines are pregnant women. All pregnant women are more vulnerable to becoming seriously unwell and hospitalised with any virus during pregnancy due to weakening effects on the immune system in pregnancy.
Studies (MBRACE-UK and UKOSS) of those who were pregnant when acquiring covid-19 have shown poorer clinical outcomes for those who were unvaccinated including increased hospitalisation of mum and new born and premature delivery. At points in time during the pandemic data showed that almost 20% of our most critically ill ICU patients were unvaccinated pregnant women.
Dr Helen Wall, Clinical Director for Population Health at NHS Greater Manchester, said: “We know that a lot of women can be nervous about having jabs during their pregnancy but the risks of not being vaccinated are all too often understated. As a mother and GP I want to encourage pregnant women to seek out a vaccine for both covid and flu this autumn as our hospitalisation rates for both already begin to climb. The growing evidence of harm of both virus’ in pregnant women is quite alarming, whilst we have successfully vaccinated and protected over 1 million pregnant women with covid vaccine worldwide and may more against flu for years.
“Vaccinations are our best defence against flu and COVID-19, ahead of what could be a very challenging winter with the rise of the new variant.
“That’s why I urge anyone who is pregnant to please come forward as soon as possible to ensure you have the extra protection needed to keep you and your baby safe.
“There will be many sites all over Greater Manchester offering both flu and COVID-19 vaccinations, so we encourage people to get both – either at the same time or separately.
“Being symptomatic with covid is also much more miserable while pregnant and unable to self-medicate a fever and aches and pains and I am already meeting pregnant women in practice who are suffering.”
Originally due to start in October, the winter vaccine programme was brought forward a month following an announcement by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) on the risks presented by the new BA.2.86 variant and pre-emptive measures the NHS has been asked to take.
Residents of older adult care homes, the housebound, the immunosuppressed, carers, pregnant women, adults under 65 identified as clinically at risk due to health conditions, and health and social care staff are all among the groups to be offered a covid jab this winter, as well as adults aged 65 and over.
Eligible people will, if they haven’t already, receive an invite from their local GP and pharmacy or via national texts and letters, but don’t wait if you are eligible and there is availability – with those eligible able to book an appointment on the National Booking Service.
The winter flu and COVID-19 vaccination programme provides vital protection to those eligible and their families over winter, keeping people from developing serious illnesses, and helping to minimise hospitalisations during busy winter months.
Wherever possible, vaccinations for flu and COVID-19 will be offered at the same time – making it easier and more convenient for people to get vital protection from both viruses ahead of winter. But they will also be offered separately.
It is important that those eligible this year come forward for their vaccinations as protection fades over time, and the virus that causes flu and COVID can change from year to year.
Adult flu and COVID-19 appointments are available through the NHS App and website, or by calling 119 for those who can’t get online. Flu vaccines are also available through local GP practices and pharmacies.
There is no change to flu vaccinations for children which will be offered in schools from early October, to prevent children from getting seriously ill from flu and ending up hospital, and to break the chain of transmission of the virus to the wider population.
The nasal flu vaccine is the most effective vaccine for children aged 2-17 years but if this is not suitable the GP or practice nurse may be able to offer a flu vaccine injection as an alternative.
NHS GM is particularly keen to vaccinate children aged 2-3 years early on for flu, due to the high number of hospitalisations in under 5s with flu last year.
Health and social care workers are also eligible for the winter vaccines and encouraged to come forward as soon as they can to ensure they are protected when at work.
In line with advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, those eligible for a flu vaccine this year include:
- those aged 65 years and over
- those aged 6 months to under 65 years in clinical risk groups (as defined by the Green Book, chapter 19 (Influenza))
- pregnant women
- all children aged 2 or 3 years on 31 August 2023
- school-aged children (from Reception to Year 11)
- those in long-stay residential care homes
- carers in receipt of carer’s allowance, or those who are the main carer of an elderly or disabled person
- close contacts of immunocompromised individuals
- frontline workers in a social care setting without an employer led occupational health scheme including those working for a registered residential care or nursing home, registered domiciliary care providers, voluntary managed hospice providers and those that are employed by those who receive direct payments (personal budgets) or Personal Health budgets, such as Personal Assistants
Those eligible for an autumn covid vaccine are:
- residents in a care home for older adults
- all adults aged 65 years and over
- persons aged 6 months to 64 years in a clinical risk group, as laid out in the Immunisation Green Book, COVID-19 chapter (Green Book)
- frontline health and social care workers
- persons aged 12 to 64 years who are household contacts (as defined in the Green Book) of people with immunosuppression
- persons aged 16 to 64 years who are carers (as defined in the Green Book) and staff working in care homes for older adults.
For more information about the Autumn Winter vaccine programme you can visit: https://gmintegratedcare.org.uk/find-a-service/flu-and-covid-vaccinations/.
To find your nearest COVID-19 walk in clinic visit: https://gmintegratedcare.org.uk/covid-vaccine-walk-in-clinics/