GPs across Northern Ireland are at the forefront of delivering both the flu and COVID booster vaccinations this winter.
As part of the annual flu vaccination programme, GPs deliver almost 500,000 vaccinations each year to those 50 years and older, pregnant women, carers at home and people under 65 with an underlying health condition.
This year, many GP practices are running COVID booster jabs alongside the traditional flu programme.
The Family Practice in Antrim Health Centre recently delivered their first flu and COVID booster clinics.
Dr Margaret O’Brien, Head of GP Services, Health and Social Care Board said, “It’s especially important this year to boost our immunity by getting both the flu and COVID booster jab if offered. It will help reduce the risk of contracting flu and coronavirus at the same time, and help reduce hospital admissions at a time when the health service is under strain. I’m particularly proud of the way GPs and their teams have stepped up to the plate this year to deliver this service under some very challenging conditions.”
Dr Allen McCullough, GP, The Family Practice said, “We were able to use a local parish hall after being contacted by some of our patients regarding its availability. This means we could ensure patients can come in smaller groups and have space to wait, observe social distance and rest after getting their vaccinations. I would really like to encourage patients, when invited, to book their vaccination appointment for this winter. It’s really important that they get both the flu and COVID booster jabs this year.”
The flu virus spreads through the air when people cough and sneeze without covering their nose and mouth. Each year, the strains of flu in circulation change, so new vaccines are formulated to reflect this. That is why it is so important that everyone who falls into an eligible category gets the vaccine annually.
Dr David Irwin, Consultant in Health Protection, Public Health Agency said, “Flu activity levels were extremely low globally in 2020 to 2021, mainly due to COVID-19 prevention measures. As a result, a lower level of population immunity against flu is expected this year. Now that restrictions have eased, it is expected that winter 2021 to 2022 will be the first winter in the UK when seasonal flu will co-circulate alongside COVID-19.
“The flu vaccine does not give you the flu. It is offered as the best protection for ‘at risk’ groups because if they get flu, they are more likely to have severe illness and develop complications such as pneumonia, which can be life-threatening.”
“The message is clear – don’t take the risk; get the vaccine.”