Preparing for winter: early Flu and Covid-19 vaccination for vulnerable groups

Posted on: 4th September 2023

As the seasons change so does the need to protect ourselves from seasonal illnesses. For individuals with liver disease who are considered clinically vulnerable, such as those taking immunosuppressants or who have undergone organ transplants, staying healthy during the autumn and winter months is of utmost importance. In light of recent developments related to a new Covid variant, this year's autumn flu and Covid-19 vaccine programmes in England are being brought forward, aiming to safeguard those at greatest risk of severe illness. In this blog, we'll delve into the details of this early vaccination initiative and why it's crucial for some individuals with liver disease and other vulnerable groups.

Who Is Eligible for Early Vaccination?

Starting on September 11th, individuals who are over 65 or deemed clinically vulnerable, which includes those with severe liver disease, those taking immunosuppressants, or those who have had an organ transplant, will be eligible for both the flu and Covid-19 vaccines. Additionally, household contacts of people with immunosuppression will also be included in this vaccination initiative.

The accelerated rollout will prioritise adult care home residents and those at the highest risk. NHS England is expected to release further details soon, and individuals falling into these high-risk groups are encouraged to get vaccinated as soon as they receive their invitations.

The new Covid variant: BA.2.86

The decision to accelerate the autumn flu and Covid-19 vaccine programmes stems from the identification of a new Covid variant known as BA.2.86. This variant was first detected in the UK on August 18th, raising concerns due to its high number of mutations and its appearance in individuals without any recent travel history.

While BA.2.86 is not yet classified as a "variant of concern," experts at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) believe that speeding up the vaccination programme is a prudent precaution. This approach aims to provide enhanced protection to those at the highest risk of severe illness and to mitigate potential strain on the NHS.

Combining flu and Covid-19 vaccines

For operational efficiency and in line with public health recommendations, it is advised that the flu and Covid-19 vaccines should be administered simultaneously wherever possible. This approach ensures that individuals receive the best possible protection against both influenza and Covid-19.

The importance of early vaccination

In previous years, the vaccination campaign was scheduled to commence in early October. However, this year's approach recognises that the best protection is achieved when individuals are vaccinated as close to possible before being exposed to influenza and Covid-19 viruses.

The guidance from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) for this autumn emphasises offering the vaccine to those at high risk of serious disease from Covid-19. This targeted approach ensures that those who are most likely to benefit from vaccination receive timely protection.

Take action for a healthier winter

As autumn approaches, we encourage eligible individuals to take up the offer of vaccination as soon as they receive their invitations. By doing so, you will enter the colder season with the best possible protection against both the flu and Covid-19.