Experts have urged people to “not be complacent” about flu amid new research that people infected with both influenza and coronavirus have an almost six times higher risk of death than the general population.
Public Health England (PHE) officials have warned that both flu and coronavirus could be circulating at the same time and have urged people who can be vaccinated for flu to get a jab.
Up to 30 million people in England are eligible for a flu jab this year after the programme was expanded.
Who is eligible for a flu jab?
This year people eligible for the flu vaccine include:
Primary school children and Year 7 pupils will be offered the flu nasal spray in schools and two and three-year-olds will be offered the vaccine through their GP.
Those age 65 and over, people with long-term health conditions and pregnant women will be offered the vaccine through their GP or pharmacy.
Household contacts of people who were instructed to ‘shield’ during the first wave of the pandemic.
Health and social care workers who have direct contact with the people they care for.
Once the first at risk groups have been contacted, the vaccine programme will also be rolled out to include people over the age of 50.
It is hoped that a new campaign will encourage those who are eligible to accept their invitation when it is sent out.
The campaign has been launched as a new study showed that during the first peak of the pandemic, people who were infected with both the new coronavirus and flu had a significantly higher risk of death.
While the numbers were small, the risk of death was nearly six times greater among those co-infected compared to the general population.
The risk of death was also higher compared to being infected with Covid-19 alone.
PHE researchers analysed data in almost 20,000 people who were tested for both Covid-19 and flu between January 20 and April 25.
Fifty eight were identified as having ‘co-infection’ of the two viruses.
Overall 43% of people with co-infection died compared to 27% of those who tested positive for Covid-19 alone.
Those who died “tended” to be older, PHE said.
Flu usually kills around 11,000 people each year in England and many more are hospitalised.
People more susceptible to the effects of flu are also more at risk from Covid-19, officials said.
In previous years, the rates of people getting their flu jab have been low among some groups.
PHE’s medical director Professor Yvonne Doyle, said: “We’re encouraging anybody who is eligible to accept their flu vaccination this year, particularly with the winter we’re going to face.
“People still think that the flu is just like a cold. It’s not. The flu is an extremely unpleasant condition.
“If you’re in a risk group, it can be really dangerous, and it can kill you.
“The vaccine is good, it’s safe, and it does protect people. So it’s worth having it.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “This year more than ever, it’s vital that those eligible for the flu jab get it this winter so you can protect yourself, your family and the NHS.
“We’re pulling out all the stops to prepare for this uniquely challenging winter and we have enough vaccines for 30 million people this year, more than we’ve ever done before.
“With the simultaneous risk of flu and Covid-19, make sure you get your flu jab if you’re eligible, don’t gather in groups larger than six and remember ‘Hands Face Space’ so we can look after each other.”