Not too late to protect yourself from COVID-19 and flu this winter

Health / Thu 30th Nov 2023 at 08:52am

WITH the weather turning colder this weekend, the local NHS is reminding people that it’s not too late to have a COVID-19 and flu vaccination to protect yourself. 

Pregnant women and people with long term health conditions are particularly being encouraged to come forward for a vaccination if they have not already done so.

As we head into the winter months, it is vitally important that people who are more likely to become seriously ill as a result of flu or COVID-19 get as much protection as possible.

Pregnant women and people with long term health conditions such as breathing problems, diabetes, heart disease and liver disease fall into this category and for that reason are being urged to come forward now for their free vaccines.

Getting the flu or COVID while pregnant can increase the likelihood of mother and baby requiring intensive care, as well as other complications such as a baby being still born or premature. People with long term health conditions are at risk of developing more serious illness such as bronchitis or pneumonia as a result of an infection. COVID or flu infection could also make their existing condition worse.

Public health officials are keen to stress that the vaccines are safe for pregnant women and having them passes on some immunity to their unborn baby. The vaccines are also safe for women who are breastfeeding. 

Samantha Booth, 28 weeks pregnant, recalled having the flu in the past and said taking the vaccine eased her anxiety about getting infected while pregnant.

She plans to give birth at Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow.

“I wanted the vaccines to give protection to myself and baby against the viruses, and also to reduce risks,” she said.

“I had the flu a few years ago and was so unwell that I was bed bound for almost two weeks, and didn’t want the risk of being so unwell whilst having pregnancy symptoms. Having the vaccines made me feel less anxious about these risks being caused by the viruses.”

COVID and flu vaccinations can be booked online through the NHS national booking service or by calling 119.

Jane Halpin, Chief Executive of Hertfordshire and West Essex Integrated Care Board (ICB), said: “The flu and COVID vaccines offer the best protection against serious illness this winter for pregnant women and people with long term health conditions.

“By coming forward and getting vaccinated, you can reduce your risk of hospitalisation and also protect yourself and your loved ones.

“Vaccination teams across Hertfordshire and west Essex have been busy putting jabs into arms throughout the autumn. For most people it’s fine to have both vaccines at the same time. Anyone eligible who has not yet had a flu or COVID vaccine should not delay any longer, our teams are ready and waiting to give more people the protection they need.”

Lucy Wightman, director of Public Health at Essex County Council, said: “I would strongly urge any pregnant women and people with long term health conditions who have not yet taken up the offer of free flu and Covid vaccines to do so as soon as possible. It is not too late for them, or anyone else who is eligible for a jab, to come forward.

“Shoring up our defences against flu and COVID has never been more important heading into the winter. As we anticipate another busy few months ahead for the NHS, it’s vitally important that vulnerable people such as pregnant women and people with long term health conditions, reduce their risk of serious illness and hospitalisation.

“The vaccines are the best defence we have against flu and COVID. If you’ve been offered a jab but are still to take it up, do not delay any longer.

“Booking your vaccinations is as simple as visiting the National Booking Service website, using the NHS app or calling 119.”

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