HYWEL DDA University Health Board is urging anyone who is eligible for a free flu vaccine to take up the offer.
It comes as Public Health experts have warned that they are expecting a significant flu season this winter for the first time since the pandemic.
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 Covid-19 booster to reduce their chances of getting seriously ill with Covid-19.
If you are eligible for an autumn COVID-19 booster, please wait to be invited by either your GP or the health board. Everyone eligible will be offered an appointment by November.
GP practices are also preparing to invite eligible patients for their seasonal flu vaccine and aim to offer an appointment to everyone eligible by December. Again, please do not contact your GP practice at this time, you will be invited when it is your turn.
Cases of flu (also known as 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, 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.
Dr Joanne McCarthy, Deputy Director of Public Health at Hywel Dda UHB, said: “Flu is caused by the influenza virus. It can be a very unpleasant illness and also lead to serious problems, such as bronchitis and pneumonia.
“The pandemic has made us much more aware that vaccination saves lives and reduces hospitalisations. Vaccination may not stop you from catching flu or COVID-19, but it makes it far less likely that you will be severely ill or need hospitalisation.”
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 launches on 27 September 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.’
For more information about how to get the vaccines, please visit https://phw.nhs.wales/topics/immunisation-and-vaccines/flu-vaccine-and-covid-19-autumn-booster/.