People with liver disease urged to boost their immunity before winter

Posted on: 26th October 2021

The British Liver Trust is urging people with chronic liver disease to boost their immunity to flu and COVID-19 this autumn by getting their winter vaccinations.

Many people with chronic liver disease know if they’re extremely clinically vulnerable to coronavirus, but they might not know that there’s also a high risk if they catch the flu.

Both viruses can spread easily, cause hospitalisations and deaths, which is why it’s important that people with long-term liver disease take steps to protect themselves by getting their winter vaccinations when called. Some people will be offered their flu and COVID-19 booster at the same time. Others will be invited to have vaccinations separately.

The COVID-19 vaccines are safe and very effective at reducing the risk of hospitalisation and death from the virus. However, as is the case for other vaccines, their efficacy can reduce slightly over time.

The COVID-booster jab is a top-up vaccination that will help stop people from catching and spreading the virus, and stop others from getting seriously ill. If you are severely immunosuppressed, you may be offered a third full vaccination instead.

Flu vaccine

This autumn the NHS is also rolling out its annual flu vaccination programme. Flu is a highly infectious disease and can lead to serious complications for those living with a long-term health condition, including liver disease. People with chronic liver disease and immunosuppression are 48 and 47 times more likely, respectively, to die from flu compared to healthy adults.

On average around 11,000 people die each year in England from flu, but there are fears the death toll could be much higher this year due to a lack of exposure last winter due to social distancing.

Vanessa Hebditch, Director of Policy and Communications at the British Liver Trust, said: “The liver is a vital weapon in our body’s armoury for fighting infection. If the liver is damaged, our bodies find it much harder to fight off illnesses of all kinds, including the flu. Any kind of long-term damage to this organ, no matter what the cause, can leave people more prone to infection.

“If you’re invited for a booster or flu vaccine, please don’t delay. Take up this quick and easy opportunity to keep you and your loved ones healthy this winter.”