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Flu jab ‘weapon’ in epidemic fight

Flu vaccination this winter is an “indirect weapon” in the fight against COVID-19 - according to one doctor who led the intensive care response throughout the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

Critical care consultant, Dr Catherine Snelson, who was one of the lead clinicians at one of University Hospital Birminghams (UHB) largest critical care units at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, has urged people to have the flu vaccination, in a bid to avoid overloading the NHS, and reducing the severity of the seasonal flu epidemic this winter.

Last year over 1,000 people were admitted to UHB with the complications caused by flu, but Dr Snelson says that this year it is more important than ever to protect each other, protect patients and protect the NHS. She said: “As winter approaches, all of our services begin to feel under pressure, and that happens every year. However this year the challenges are greater than we’ve ever been used to.

“Large numbers of already vulnerable people experiencing serious complications because of the flu, and an indeterminable number of patients hospitalised with COVID-19, could well use the indirect weapon that the flu vaccination is, by its ability to limit the spread and severity of influenza infection.

“As a consultant I’ve seen patients taken extremely unwell because of the flu, and of COVID-19, both requiring the most intensive support - as have my colleagues who have all worked tirelessly since the start of the year to battle COVID. But we know that the more individuals; health professionals and the public alike – who get the flu vaccine - the lower numbers of serious flu cases we will see, and that will help to ease the pressure on units like that at our hospitals.

“By all of us pulling together, just like we did for COVID-19, to counter flu by having the flu vaccine – the better the health and wellbeing of our patient population and just as importantly, ourselves, our colleagues and our families.

“We’re used to now wearing masks, gloves and PPE all the time, meticulously and frequently washing and gelling our hands and keeping safe distances where that is possible. But we also now need to make sure we have the flu vaccination.”

You can have the NHS flu vaccine at:

  • your GP surgery
  • a pharmacy offering the service
  • your midwifery service if you're pregnant

If you have your flu vaccine at a pharmacy, you do not have to tell the GP. The pharmacist should tell them.

For more information, click here.