A call has been issued for people with long term health conditions to protect themselves before winter by getting a Covid booster.
The NHS is concerned that across the North East, many patients at higher risk of complications from the virus are yet to receive the latest jab.
Everyone aged fifty and over is eligible for a Covid autumn booster, along with people in other specific groups.
Those aged five and above in a clinical at-risk group
Residents of care homes for older people
Health and care workers
People who are pregnant
In the North East, GP practices and community pharmacies are spearheading the autumn vaccination programme.
While thousands of doses have been administered, figures from the NHS indicate the majority of those entitled to a jab are yet to receive it.
Across the North East and North Cumbria health region:
1.65m people in total are eligible for the autumn Covid booster
Up to Friday 28 October 2022, 573,000 patients had received their dose
At Marlborough Surgery in Seaham, where vaccination clinics are taking place, Dr Rajiv Mansingh explained that while life has changed since the height of the pandemic, the need for protection had not gone away.
He said: "This winter it's more important because though people have had previous Covid jabs, and some of them have had Covid infections, we're coming out of our shell, mixing with people and the virus is slightly different."
The plea comes as a hospital trust on Teesside has reintroduced mask wearing for patients and staff in the light of rising Covid infections on wards and in the community.
Chief nurse for North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust Lindsey Robertson said: “Thankfully the patients with Covid are not as poorly as we were treating when the pandemic was at its height.
She added: "It’s manageable but we are asking for all visitors to help us by wearing a mask when they come to see their loved ones in hospital.”
As the Covid booster programme continues, people are also being urged to get a seasonal flu vaccination.
Among those eligible for a flu jab:
Children aged two and three years on 31 August 2022
School aged children
Those aged six months to under 50 in clinical risk groups
People aged 50 and over
The NHS says that while the number of people needing hospital treatment across the North East for flu are small, cases are being seen earlier than usual.