Powys Teaching Health Board is urging anyone who is eligible for a free flu vaccine to take up the offer this winter.
Public health experts are expecting a significant flu season this winter for the first time since the pandemic and there are concerns that it may start earlier this year and affect more people.
In addition, the COVID-19 autumn booster programme is now live and many people including everyone over 50 years old, and those at risk of severe disease are among those being offered a booster to reduce their chances of getting seriously ill with Covid.
Cases of flu, or influenza, are already being detected in Wales. Public health scientists say that the flu season could be as severe as the 2017/18 flu outbreak, where 16.5 thousand people in Wales were diagnosed with flu by their GP, and 2,500 people were hospitalised. There was also a high level of seasonal excess deaths that year – the worst for around 20 years.
Since March 2020, the COVID-19 lockdowns and international travel restrictions have disrupted the amount of respiratory viruses in circulation, but as our lives are going back to normal, viruses are returning in higher numbers. This year, Australia experienced a flu season which was earlier than usual and saw the highest case levels in five years. It is possible that the UK – and Wales – will experience similar flu activity.
With COVID-19 also in circulation, and added winter pressures on the NHS, Powys Teaching Health Board says it is more important than ever that those who are eligible for a free flu or COVID-19 vaccine get vaccinated to help prevent them becoming seriously unwell and protect the NHS this winter.
Mererid Bowley, interim director of public health for Powys Teaching Health Board said: “Taking up the invitation for COVID-19 and flu vaccination is one of the biggest steps we can take to protect our health this winter.
“Vaccination saves lives and helps to prevent serious illness. Look out for your invitation, and please do your best to take up the appointment you are offered.”
Eluned Morgan, minister for health and social services, said: “We are encouraging everyone to get both their jabs this winter, when flu and Covid will be at their peak, to protect themselves, those around them and the NHS during what will be a busy time for healthcare in Wales.”
To promote the vaccinations, Public Health Wales has launched a campaign encouraging those eligible to ‘power up’ their protection against serious illness this winter by getting the flu and COVID-19 vaccines. The campaign launched today (September 27) with digital and social content as well as stakeholder outreach and radio adverts.
Vaccination is particularly important for those who are older, pregnant, or have a health condition and are more vulnerable to complications as a result of the infections.
It is also very important that frontline healthcare workers and those who work in care homes or providing care in peoples own homes get their vaccines to help reduce spread.
To help stop flu and other viruses spreading, remember to ‘Catch it, Bin it, Kill it.’