It is more important than ever that those who are eligible for the free flu vaccination ensure they get vaccinated this year.

Flu can lead to incredibly serious health complications among vulnerable groups and can sometimes be fatal. In an average year, 11,000 people die from the flu and many more are hospitalised.

The flu vaccine is one of the most effective ways to protect yourself, your family and our communities against flu. The vaccine will also help take the pressure off our NHS and social care sectors this winter, who are working extremely hard to look after us in challenging conditions.

Within the Council we are encouraging all our staff to get the jab and I know that many other organisations are also running similar campaigns with their workforce.

Flu can affect anyone. For most healthy people, the illness is unpleasant but tends to resolve on its own. However, some people are more vulnerable to the effects of flu. People most at risk are also most vulnerable to COVID-19.

Pregnant women are among the target audience for the first phase of the local campaign led by health partners, which the Council is supporting. In 2019, only one in two pregnant women and only 40 per cent of carers, most of whom will be caring for a vulnerable person with a complex health need, had the vaccine.

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 COVID-19 alone.

It is therefore critical that we do all we can to help protect those most at-risk, as well as our wider community, from a double threat this winter.

This year the Government has extended the eligibility criteria for the flu vaccination, the programme will now be offered to 30 million people, the highest number on record.

The expanded programme will help to protect as many people as possible from the flu, including adults aged 65 and over, those who have certain health conditions, all primary school children and, for the first time, all Year 7 children in secondary school.

You can find out the full eligibility criteria on the NHS website, through your GP or via your local pharmacy. Further information on how to get the vaccination will also be available to you through these sources.

I for one have already booked my vaccination appointment this month and would strongly encourage anyone who is eligible for the vaccination this year to take up the opportunity too.

Please remember that if you have managed to successfully book a flu vaccination and are due to attend one of our health services for your appointment, you must continue to follow government guidance on face coverings, hand washing and social distancing – in order to keep yourself, staff and other residents safe.