NHS patients from around England have joined health chiefs in pleading with the public to get their flu vaccines after being hospitalised with the virus.
It comes as the latest data shows there were 5,500 patients in hospitals nationally with Flu last week and more than 9,000 patients with Covid.
While almost 20 million people have had a flu jab, including four in five over 65s, and more than 17 million people have had a covid booster, there are still a number of eligible people who are yet to take up their winter vaccinations and are therefore at increased risk of serious illness.
NHS director of vaccinations and screening Steve Russell said: "It is both heart-breaking to hear the stories of those who have been hospitalised with flu and heart-warming that they received such brilliant care from NHS staff and quite possibly had their lives saved by the flu vaccine.
"With hospital cases for flu at their highest yet this winter with 5,500 beds occupied by patients with flu and more than 9,000 patients with covid last week, the message is clear – anyone who has been invited for a flu vaccine but yet to take it up, should come forward now – it is not too late and I would urge you to book an appointment at your local pharmacy, GP or via the National Booking Service, as soon as possible."
Those eligible for the flu jab include all people aged 50 and over, health and social care workers, people aged 6 months and over and considered "at risk" due to another medical condition, as well as pregnant women and children aged two and three.
Children are able to receive their vaccination via a nasal spray and are encouraged to get the vaccine to not only protect themselves but reduce transmissions to others at risk.
Flu cases in hospitals across the UK, jumped up by almost half (47%) last week, as staff in NHS 111 answered a near-record number of calls.
New figures for the week leading up to New Year’s Day, showed there were 5,105 patients with flu in general and acute hospital beds, up from 3,479 the previous week.
Those eligible for the flu jab are:
· People aged 50 and over
· Those aged between six months and 49 years with a specified health condition
· Some secondary school-aged children
· 2 and 3-year-olds
· Pregnant women
· Primary school-aged children
· Those in care homes
· People who are carers, as set out in the Green Book
· Frontline healthcare workers
· Frontline social care staff who do not have access to occupational health schemes
· Household contacts of people with weakened immune systems.
You can have a seasonal booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine if you are:
- aged 50 or over
- aged 5 and over and at high risk from COVID-19 due to a health condition or a weakened immune system
- aged 5 and over and live with someone who has a weakened immune system
- aged 16 and over and a carer, either paid or unpaid
- living or working in a care home for older people
- a frontline health and social care worker.