Northern Ireland's Chief Medical Officer urges those eligible to get flu and Covid vaccines

The Department of Health has started the roll-out of the autumn round of its Covid-19 vaccine booster and the flu jab.

The Public Health Agency brought forward the planned start date of this year’s autumn flu and COVID-19 vaccination programmes as a precautionary measure following the identification of a new COVID-19 variant. Advice from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) indicates that starting the autumn vaccine programme sooner will deliver greater protection, supporting those at greatest risk of severe illness and reducing the potential impact on our health and social care system.

The autumn booster will be offered to those at high risk of serious disease and who will mostly benefit from the vaccination.

Northern Ireland’s Chief Medical Officer has appealed to everyone eligible for the COVID-19 booster and flu vaccination to get one. But who is eligible for a vaccine?

The Covid-19 booster vaccine is being offered to the following people, which is in line with Joint Commission on Vaccination and Immunisation guidance:

  • All residents and staff in care homes .

  • All adults aged 65 years and over on 31 March 2024

  • Persons aged six months to 64 years in a clinical risk group, as laid out in the Immunisation Green Book, COVID-19 chapter

  • 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)

The role out of the autumn flu vaccine has also been announced and those eligible are as follows:

  • All preschool children aged two to four years on 1 September 2023

  • All primary and secondary (up to and including year 12) school children

  • Those aged six months to under 65 years in clinical risk groups (as defined by the influenza chapter in ‘Immunisation against infectious disease’ (‘Green Book’).

  • All those aged 65 years and over on 31 March 2024

  • Pregnant women

  • Those in long-stay residential care home

  • Carers

  • Close contacts of immunocompromised individuals

Those who are eligible for either the flu or Covid-19 vaccinations will be called by their GP or they can attend a community pharmacy.

Professor Sir Michael McBride, Northern Ireland's Chief Medical Officer said: “While the threat from COVID-19 has significantly reduced since the height of the pandemic, it is still very capable of causing serious ill health and in some cases death. The same goes for flu. “That’s why I am again strongly encouraging everyone who is eligible for these jabs to not miss out. Vaccination will give you added protection over winter, when there is invariably a heightened risk from both viruses.” The Chief Medical Officer added that getting vaccinated is also “an act of solidarity” with health and social care system and its staff.

“We know that winter will once again be an extremely pressurised time for health and social care services right across these islands. “Flu and Covid-19 cases will contribute to those pressures. Vaccination is a practical step members of the public can take to support health and social care services. It can help suppress infection rates, freeing up resources to treat other patients. It will help us help you in providing the care you need. Vaccination is a win win for you and our health service.”

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