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Those most at risk are encouraged to 'be wise, immunise', and get both their COVID-19 and flu vaccinations this winter

More than 1.2 million people in the North East and North Cumbria are being reminded to 'Be wise, immunise' and top up their protection against COVID-19 and flu this winter.

Doctors are urging those at highest risk from the viruses, including people aged 65 and over, those in clinical at-risk groups and their household contacts, pregnant women, people with learning disabilities, health and social care workers and carers – to book their seasonal vaccines to ensure they get the protection they need to stay safe this winter.

In addition, nursery, primary and secondary school children, aged 2 to 16 years, will also be offered a free flu vaccination. Those with existing health conditions will also be offered a COVID-19 vaccine.

The plea follows a report from the UK Health Security Agency which showed that more than 14,000 deaths were attributed to flu and a further 10,000 deaths attributed to COVID-19, in England, from September to March 2022 to 2023.

Dr Neil O'Brien, medical director, NHS North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board (ICB) said: "For some people COVID-19 and flu can be extremely serious, therefore it is vital that the most vulnerable get both vaccines to help strengthen their immunity to protect themselves and also help reduce pressures on the NHS this winter.

"Elderly residents and staff in care homes and the housebound have been our first priority, but clinics for older people and those most at risk are now underway, so I'd urge anyone who is eligible for the free vaccines to please come forward as soon as they are contacted and encourage their loved ones who are eligible to do the same.” The NHS will be contacting all those eligible to book an appointment.

COVID-19 vaccinations can be booked via the NHS website, by downloading the NHS App, or by calling 119 for free if people are unable to get online. If you need British Sign Language, you can go to signvideo.co.uk/nhs119. Flu vaccinations for adults can be booked at local GP practices or local community pharmacies.

Flu vaccinations for school age children will take place in school or in a community clinic setting. Children aged two and three years will be offered an appointment at their local GP surgery. The flu vaccination will also shortly be bookable via the NHS Website at participating community pharmacies.

"If your preferred vaccination clinic venue is not showing on the national booking system when you check, please don't worry as more venues and appointments will be added all the time," added Dr O'Brien.

"Many of these will be at local community pharmacies, but some people will be contacted by their local GP practice - and you may be able to book both your COVID-19 and flu vaccines at the same time. "Vaccines continue to provide the best protection against serious illness and hospitalisation from Covid-19 and flu so if you are at risk, please 'be wise, immunise', and book an appointment as soon as you can to ensure you are fully protected this winter."

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