Who is eligible for a Covid autumn booster and free flub jab in Preston, Chorley and South Ribble this year - and when can they can get one?
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It follows concern over the risk that could be posed by a new Covid variant known as BA.2.86, which has more than 30 mutations compared to previous strains.
The variant is the biggest change in the virus since the emergence of Omicron in late 2021, which drove a surge in cases and multiple waves of infection over the following year.
The fear is that BA.2.86 - itself part of the Omicron family - will similarly be able to evade the degree of immunity provided by now waning vaccines and also past infection.
Cases have already rocketed in recent weeks, seemingly driven by another variant – Eris. The Zoe Health Study app estimates that there were 1.1m infections in the UK as of 1st September – up 45 percent from a month earlier.
Fewer people are eligible for a Covid autumn booster this year than last, when anybody over 50 was entitled to one. This time around, it will be restricted to the over-65s and those in younger age groups that are considered vulnerable or who are working with people who are.
The free flu jab will also be limited to over-65s and those at particular risk - although, unlike with the Covid booster, the flu jab can be bought by those not entitled to a free shot.
The Covid and flu vaccination programmes had been due to start in October in order to maximise protection over the winter months, but will now begin on 11th September.
Residents of older adult care homes and those most at risk, including the immunosuppressed, will receive their Covid boosters first. The over-65s should wait to receive an invite from their local provider.
Carers, pregnant women and health and social care staff will also all be among the groups to be offered a Covid jab this winter - but they will not be identified nationally and so should just go ahead and book an appointment when they become available.
Jane Scattergood, senior responsible officer for the Lancashire and South Cumbria Covid-19 vaccination programme, said: “While it may seem like Covid-19 is a thing of the past and it isn’t as high-profile as it was, it is still a dangerous illness that can have life-threatening impacts for the most vulnerable people in our society.
“We would encourage everyone who is invited to receive an autumn booster to get one. It is the best way to protect yourself against the disease and the new variant.”
Who can get a Covid autumn booster in Lancashire this year?
***all adults aged 65 years and over
***residents in care homes for older adults
***frontline health and social care workers
***those aged between six months and 64 years who are in a clinical risk group, as defined in the government’s Immunisation Green Book - including diabetics and those suffering from chronic respiratory, heart and liver diseases.
***carers aged 16 to 64 years and staff working in care homes for older adults
***those aged 12 to 64 years who are household contacts of people with immunosuppression
Who can get a free flu jab in Lancashire this year?
***all adults aged 65 years and over
***those aged six months to under 65 years who are in clinical risk groups, as defined in the Immunisation Green Book - including those with asthma, COPD and chronic heart, vascular, liver or kidney disease.
***all children aged two or three years on 31st August, 2023
***school-aged children - from Reception to Year 11
***those in long-stay residential care homes
***carers in receipt of Carer’s Allowance, or those who are the main carer of an elderly or disabled person
***close contacts of immunocompromised individuals
***frontline workers in a social care setting without an employer-led occupational health scheme - including those working for a registered residential care or nursing home, registered domiciliary care providers, voluntary managed hospice providers and those that are employed by people who receive direct payments (personal budgets) or Personal Health budgets, such as personal assistants.