Flu jabs and COVID booster programme

Posted by: Sarah Williams - Posted on:

Message from Dr Katrina Young, Senior Partner at St Mary’s Surgery:

“With the winter months fast approaching, we know that respiratory diseases will be circulating widely in the community. This includes both the flu virus as well coronavirus and means that some people who are most vulnerable may become severely ill.

Therefore as well as rolling out the usual annual flu vaccination programme, the government has accepted advice from the JCVI that people who are most at risk should have a third dose of a COVID vaccination as a booster. This is part of the government’s plan for managing coronavirus throughout the autumn and winter months.

The NHS will therefore be offering flu jabs alongside COVID boosters for all eligible patients and the JCVI has advised it is safe to have both vaccines at the same time.

St Mary’s Surgery, together with the other GP practices in the Ely Primary Care Network, has been putting plans in place to deliver our flu clinics and COVID booster roll out and we will be in touch with all our eligible patients shortly.

We strongly encourage everyone who is invited to get their free flu jabs and COVID boosters. By doing so you will help protect yourselves, your families, the wider community and the NHS.”

Information correct as at 17 September 2021

COVID-19 vaccine bottles
mRNA vaccine has been recommended by JCVI for COVID boosters in England

Frequently asked questions

Who will be invited for flu jabs and COVID boosters?

Everyone over 50 or who has a health condition that puts them at higher risk from COVID-19 will be eligible for a flu jab and a COVID booster.

This includes:

  • Older adults living in residential care homes
  • Frontline health and social care staff
  • All adults aged 50 and over
  • All those aged 16-49 with underlying health conditions that put them at risk of severe COVID-19
  • Adult household contacts of immunosuppressed individuals.

The booster dose will help to ensure those at higher risk from coronavirus, who were prioritised at the start of the vaccine programme, have enough protection going into the winter months.

Why do I need to have both jabs?

The flu virus can be life threatening particularly for older people, those with underlying health conditions or in at risk groups. In England we offer a free flu jab every year to our most vulnerable patients and the vaccine helps to protect them from severe illness. This year it is extra important to get your flu jab if you are offered one as there are concerns that flu levels may be very high this winter.

The booster vaccine is being recommended to give longer-lasting protection from COVID-19. There are signs that immunity and protection offered by the COVID vaccine drops after some months – with the most vulnerable groups most at risk of this. Responding to this, the JCVI has indicated it wants to ensure the most at risk people maintain high levels of protection.

Therefore the flu vaccinations are being offered with COVID boosters, with the main aim of the booster programme being to prolong immunity and reduce serious disease.

When can I have my jabs?

The local rollout is expected to begin in early October and run through until Christmas.

If you are eligible, the surgery will contact you in due course and invite you. The booking process will be similar to how the original COVID vaccination appointments were managed locally. If you have provided a mobile telephone number to the surgery, we will contact you that way. When invited, please click on the link in the message to book for your vaccinations.

In order to maintain the best levels of immunity, medical advice is that the booster should be given 180 days after an individual received their second COVID vaccination dose.  

Please wait until you are contacted by the surgery before trying to book an appointment. And do keep an eye out on our website or our Facebook page for more information.

Where do I need to go for my vaccines?

All vaccinations given by the Ely Primary Care Network GP practices will take place at Cathedral Medical Centre or Staploe Medical Centre.

The clinics will be held on Saturdays as well as some evenings.

We understand some of the mass vaccination sites will be operating again to deliver this rollout too and some people might receive a letter from the National Booking Service inviting them to book that way.

What vaccines will be offered for the COVID boosters?

The JCVI has recommended Pfizer BioNTech and the Moderna vaccines. These are both mRNA vaccines.* (see below)

Most people will be offered the Pfizer vaccine as their booster.

Will I be invited to have both vaccinations at the same time?

The JCVI has reviewed the evidence and advised it is safe to do so where it is possible practically. Therefore our PCNs are actively encouraging the safe administration of both vaccines at the same appointment.

At present there are no plans for separate clinics to be run purely for either COVID boosters or flu vaccines.

Will I need to be monitored after my booster vaccine?

As was the case with the Pfizer vaccine given previously, you will be asked to wait for 15 minutes after your booster jab. This is so that in the very unlikely event of a severe allergic reaction, help will be at hand.

I had another vaccine for my first two doses, is it ok to have a different one?

Based on evidence from clinical trials run this year, the JCVI has advised it is safe to have the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine as a booster, even if you didn’t have it previously. Provision has been made for a small minority of people who for clinical reasons will need to have the same vaccine as they received the first time round.

What is an mRNA vaccine?

mRNA vaccines* are a new type of vaccine used to protect against infectious diseases and the world has been using them in the fight against coronavirus.

We are all now familiar with the image of the COVID-19 cell with crown-like spikes covering it. These are called spike proteins and they enable the virus to penetrate our body’s cells and cause infections; very serious infections in some people.

mRNA vaccines work by teaching the body to make copies of the spike protein. This in turn triggers an immune response within the body.

If we are then exposed to the real virus, our body will recognise it and know how to fight it off by producing antibodies which will only target the coronavirus.

mRNA vaccines DO NOT cause COVID-19.

What is the JCVI?

The JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) is an independent expert advisory committee that advises the UK health departments on vaccination safety and implementation schedules. It has statutory responsibility in England and Wales.

Visualization of the coronavirus causing COVID-19
COVID-19 cell clearly showing the spike proteins