The NHS in North Yorkshire is urging people to get vaccinated as soon as possible in the fight against both flu and COVID-19 this winter.
Health bosses are emphasising that vaccination is the best way to protect people from serious illness and prevent the local health and care system from being overwhelmed.
After what was the busiest summer on record, the NHS is preparing for a very challenging winter – a period in which respiratory illnesses are more widespread.
For many, the winter period can be a source of concern and worry. People with respiratory diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or asthma, can be particularly susceptible to the effects of cold weather, finding themselves shorter of breath and coughing more than usual.
In addition, the risk of catching COVID-19 and flu this winter remains significant – with cases and hospital admissions rising across North Yorkshire and the wider region. Both viruses can be life-threatening. For some people, catching COVID-19 and flu at the same time increases the risk of serious illness, especially older people or those who already have health conditions.
As a result, a majority of hospitals, GP surgeries and other healthcare settings in North Yorkshire are now asking visitors to wear face masks (unless exempt) and to wash their hands regularly; if you have a hospital appointment scheduled, it’s worth checking the Hospital Trust website before you visit to get the latest advice about mask wearing.
In our region, the number of patients occupying a hospital bed with COVID-19 has risen by 50 per cent in the last month – with modelling suggesting half of beds across the Humber and North Yorkshire health and care system could be taken up by patients suffering from respiratory illnesses.
It is therefore very important that everyone eligible, is vaccinated for COVID-19 and has had their autumn booster.
Even for the fit and healthy, people can still catch these viruses and spread them to more vulnerable people around them. Some of the people you meet may be at greater risk and it’s easy to pass these viruses on without knowing.
North Yorkshire’s Director of Public Health, Louise Wallace, said: “We expect to see a wave of COVID-19 in North Yorkshire during October/November and possibly another in January.
“There’s also the risk of being hit with a wave of flu cases at the same time so it’s particularly important that people take up the offer of vaccinations as soon as they can.
“Please also remember the basics – hands, face, space and fresh air. They protect against COVID-19, flu and lots of other nasty viruses that can make you feel quite unwell.”
The actions people willingly took during the worst days of the COVID-19 pandemic saved countless lives and made sure our health and care services were able to cope with large numbers of people falling ill.
The NHS is calling for a similar effort this winter, where possible, so it can help care for and protect the most vulnerable patients in our community.
Harrogate GP, Dr Bruce Willoughby, for the Humber and North Yorkshire Health and Care Partnership, said: “This winter, we need you to keep doing everything you can to keep each other safe.
“Health and care services in North Yorkshire and York, like everywhere, are already extremely busy. We do expect to see more cases of COVID-19 in the coming weeks as people mix freely again and spend more time indoors as the weather gets colder. The risk of catching COVID-19 is highest indoors and in crowded places.
“More people are likely to get flu this winter as fewer people will have built up natural immunity to it during the pandemic. The best time to have the flu vaccine is in the autumn or early winter before it starts spreading.
“You can help though. Your actions during the pandemic made an enormous difference and we need people to look out for each other in the same way again.”
People aged 50 and over, pregnant women, carers, frontline health and care workers, care home residents and people of all ages who have a weakened immune system or live with someone who has can get a seasonal COVID-19 booster. For more details about the autumn booster, please see A guide to the COVID-19 autumn booster – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
The COVID-19 boosters are highly effective at increasing immunity and, offering a further dose to those at higher risk of severe illness this autumn, will significantly reduce the risk of hospitalisations and deaths over the winter.
To book a jab, visit the NHS National Booking Service at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination/book-coronavirus-vaccination/ or call 119.
Most of the groups above will have also now been offered a free flu jab, including many frontline health and care staff.
Younger people with some long-term health conditions are also able to get a free NHS flu jab, and since Friday, 14 October, booking has now opened up for all those aged 50 and over.
If you are eligible, you do not need to wait for an invite to book an appointment. Primary school children are currently being vaccinated through the in-school programme so make sure to complete the consent form provided via your child’s school, with Years 7 to 9 at secondary school due to receive their flu vaccines later in the year. Pre-school age children, aged two to three will also receive an invite from their GP if they haven’t already.
You can find out about flu jab eligibility by visiting Flu vaccine – NHS (www.nhs.uk).
- make sure you’re fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or get your seasonal booster if eligible
- have a flu jab this year
- wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitiser regularly
- Catch a sneeze or cough in a tissue and dispose of it in the bin or flush it
- open doors and windows to let fresh air in when meeting people inside
- consider wearing a face covering in crowded indoor places
- wear a face mask in healthcare settings like hospitals and GP surgeries, if possible
- keep an eye on more vulnerable friends, relations, or neighbours
- regularly clean surfaces you touch often
- touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean
- visit older or vulnerable people if you’re poorly (this includes if you have a fever, sickness or diarrhoea)
Remember, while there are cases of COVID-19 about, there’s still a risk you can catch it or pass it on, even if you’re fully vaccinated or you’ve had the virus before.