Boots UK’s chief pharmacist has been encouraging people to get a flu vaccination by the end of November to help protect themselves, their loved ones and the NHS this festive season.

Flu cases in the UK are usually highest in the winter months, from December to March. This year, the UK has seen a rise in cases earlier than usual, and therefore Claire Nevinson, superintendent pharmacist at Boots, reminds people that it is even more important to get protected early to help reduce the risk of spreading the virus due to increased mixing at Christmas parties and family get togethers.

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.

The pharmacy multiple says it offers the winter flu jab service, which is suitable for those eligible for the free NHS flu jab as well as privately, adding that it has already administered over one million flu vaccinations this season.

Ms Nevinson explains: “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-19 booster vaccination if you are eligible, if you’ve not had them already, this 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. 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 having the flu jab for the body to develop enough antibodies to provide protection.

“I recommend you get the jab by the end of November, for protection by mid-December, as festive socialising increases and in time for Christmas Day. If you are unable to get the jab before the end of this month though, please do not worry, just make sure you get vaccinated as early as possible.

Having the flu jab doesn’t guarantee you won’t get it, but if you do it’s likely to be milder and not last as long.”

She also urged those eligible to get their COVID-19 booster in addition to the flu jab: “A flu vaccination does not offer protection from COVID-19 and vice versa. If you are eligible for both, the flu jab and COVID-19 booster can be administered together during the same appointment in Boots stores where we offer both vaccinations.”

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