New research from Public Health England suggests that the risk of death more than doubled for people who tested positive for both flu and Covid-19, compared to those with just coronavirus

The research looked at cases between January and April this year, and found that those with co-infection of the two viruses were more at risk of severe illness. Most cases of co-infection were in older people and more than half of them died.

Flu kills on average 11,000 people in England each year and hospitalises many more. Adults at high risk from flu are also most at risk from Covid-19, so the free vaccine has been expanded this year to help protect up to 30 million people and ease pressure on the NHS and urgent care services.

Primary school children, Year 7s, over-65s, people with long-term health conditions, two and three-year-olds, pregnant women, contacts of people shielding, and health and social care workers,will be first in line.

Anyone who is aged 50 to 64 will then be invited to have the jab.

Eligible people will receive additional direct reminders prompting them to book their appointment, supporting the hard work of GP practices and pharmacies in driving uptake among their registered patients.

To help increase uptake in the social care sector, for the first-time pharmacists will be able to vaccinate both residents and care home staff at the same time.

Employers of frontline health and social care workers also have a responsibility to ensure their staff can get the free vaccine. A record number of NHS staff – three quarters of a million (74.3 per cent) of frontline healthcare workers – took up their workplace vaccination last year.

Overall nearly two thirds of eligible people received their free vaccine last year, making uptake rates in England among the highest in Europe.

Lead consultant for screening and immunisation at Public Health England South West Dr Julie Yates said: “People might think that flu is just a cough or cold, but actually this serious illness can have devastating effects on people including causing death in some cases.

“Covid-19 is still circulating, and we expect co-circulation with flu this season. This winter, more than ever, it is important to minimise the number of people becoming unwell with flu and for people to have the flu vaccination if offered.

“More people than ever are eligible for the flu vaccination this year and I would encourage anyone invited to attend their appointment.”

Medical director Dr Yvonne Doyle said: “It is dangerous to dismiss influenza as ‘just’ the flu – it can be extremely serious and can lead to hospitalisation, permanent disability or even death.

“The flu vaccine is more important than ever, to help reduce transmission of flu and protect the nation from the double threat of flu and Covid-19. You may be offered it for the first time this year – it is important that you take up the offer to protect yourself and others.”

Deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, said: “Flu can be deadly and it is easily spread in children and adults. The vaccine is the best way to protect yourself from becoming ill with the flu, especially if you are in a vulnerable group.

“This winter with Covid still circulating, and the increased risk to life if you are ill with both viruses simultaneously, it is even more vital to get the free jab as soon as you can.”