The frontline health and social care workers, including community pharmacists, have been asked to get their annual flu jab immediately as the first vaccine deliveries start to reach local employers this week.
There is an expanded offer this year for frontline social care workers who are all eligible to get a free flu vaccination from a GP or pharmacy.
Pharmacists are able to deliver the vaccination to residential care staff where they work to make it easier than ever for them to get their jab.
This allows all frontline health and social care workers are able to get a flu vaccine to protect themselves, their patients and the people they care for including personal assistants for the first time this year.
The staff member who gets flu require time off work, putting pressure on services at what can be the busiest time of the year any year.
Health secretary Matt Hancock said: “This year has seen an incredible effort from our doctors, our nurses, our carers and everyone working on the frontline to protect us from coronavirus. Now getting a free flu jab this winter will protect them, as well as their patients and the people they care for, at a critical time for our country.
“Last year saw more health care workers than ever before getting their flu jab. This year we can go further so that all of our brilliant frontline NHS and social care staff can get the flu vaccine as standard – so that together we can meet the unique challenge we face this winter.”
Research suggests that a 10 per cent increase in NHS staff vaccination reduces healthcare worker sickness absence by about 10 per cent.
However, some infections only result in mild or unnoticeable symptoms – meaning staff can then unknowingly pass the virus to vulnerable people they come into contact with.
The frontline staff at higher risk of catching flu due to their contact with patients and those they care for.
Professor Yvonne Doyle, Medical Director at Public Health England said: “If you’re a frontline health or care professional, getting your flu jab is the most effective way to protect yourself and those you care for from what can be a serious and even fatal illness.
“This year, it is more important than ever to get your flu jab with Covid-19 still in circulation. Flu can require hospitalisation, which would add pressure on the NHS and social care when they may also be dealing with cases of Covid-19.
“Getting your flu jab is easy and takes just a few minutes, but it could save someone’s life.”