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Sobering figures show hospital flu cases are up 10 times over last year, putting yet more pressure on the NHS to deliver in coming weeks. The update has spurred concern that shortages in intensive care beds could push the health service towards a tipping point. Leaders have warned hospitals are currently facing the threat of a “tripledemic” of Covid, Flu and record demand for emergency services in the weeks to come. Boots’ Superintendent Pharmacist Clare Nevinson, is urging everyone to get their flu vaccination by the end of November to protect themselves and the NHS.
The pharmacist explained: “December is a time to get together with friends and family to celebrate the month’s festivities.
“It’s a good idea to plan ahead to ensure you have your flu jab, and your COVID-18 booster vaccination if you are eligible.
“If you’ve not had them already, this is the best way to protect yourself and reduce the risk of passing the viruses to others.
“The flu vaccination stimulates an immune system response by producing antibodies against the virus.”
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Flu cases are expected to rise sharply in the winter months, but experts have warned that the co-circulation of Covid may warrant greater caution than ever.
Data shows there was an average of 344 patients a day with flu in hospital last week, compared with the 31 seen at the beginning of December last year.
It comes amid growing pressure on staffing too, with nearly 360,000 NHS workers absent from work last week due to illness.
The excess numbers are believed to be driven by lingering deficits in immunity due to COVID-19 restrictions, which blunted the spread of influenza.
Approximately 33 million people are eligible for the free NHS flu jab, including those over 50 years of age, pregnant women and those with medical conditions such as diabetes or heart disease.
Current data show the vaccine is up to 60 percent effective for healthy adults between the age of 18 to 64.
Superintendent Nevinson said: “The flu vaccination stimulates an immune system response by producing antibodies against the virus.
“The antibodies stay in your body so that if you’re exposed to the flu virus naturally your immune system can recognise it, attack it and prevent it from causing flu.
“It typically takes between 10 and 14 days after the flu jab for the body to develop enough antibodies to provide protection.”
The higher-than-average ICU occupancy has also prompted calls for Britons to get their COVID-19 booster in addition to the flu jab.
Though the jabs cannot prevent mild illness, there is overwhelming evidence that both vaccines protect against the complications of their illnesses.
“If you are eligible for both, the flu jab and COVID-19 booster can be administered together during the same appointment in a Boots store where we offer both vaccinations,” added the pharmacist.
“With around 85 percent of the population estimated to be within 10 minutes of a Boots store, it is an accessible and convenient option for patients who want a flu jab.”
Boots has already administered one million flu vaccinations to date, but there are still approximately one million appointments available to book only.
The shift in the patterns of influenza and Covid mean patients should act soon to get enough antibodies, experts have warned.
They added that it has become overly “apparent” that the seasonal pattern of respiratory viruses and influenza would peak much earlier this year.
Older, frail or generally immunocompromised people are being asked to consider taking a COVID-19 test before family gatherings this holiday season, amid the exceptionally quick spread of Omicron.
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