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Underlying health condition? You are entitled to two essential vaccines this winter

6 January 2022

Boost your immunity this winter by getting both the COVID-19 booster and the flu vaccines if you are eligible. If you are not sure whether you are eligible, speak to your GP.

Anyone with a serious long-term health condition can receive a free flu vaccine, and anyone aged 16 and over with a health condition that puts them at higher risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19 can get their booster vaccine (at least three months after the second dose).

The flu vaccine

Flu can affect anyone, but if you have a long-term health condition, the effects of flu can make it worse even if the condition is well managed and you normally feel well. Getting the flu vaccination as soon as possible is the best way of protecting yourself, as well as those around you and the NHS from being overwhelmed this winter.

Serious long-term health conditions include:

  • Respiratory conditions, such as asthma (needing steroid inhaler or tablets), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), including emphysema and bronchitis
  • Diabetes
  • Heart conditions, such as coronary heart disease or heart failure
  • Being very overweight – a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or above
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Liver disease, such as hepatitis
  • Neurological conditions, such as Parkinson's disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), or cerebral palsy
  • A learning disability
  • Problems with your spleen, for example sickle cell disease, or if you have had your spleen removed
  • A weakened immune system as the result of conditions such as HIV and AIDS, or taking medicines such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy

Talk to your doctor if you have a long-term condition that is not in one of these groups. They should offer you the flu vaccine if they think you're at risk of serious problems if you get flu.

To book your flu vaccine, speak to your GP or book through your local pharmacist if it offers the service. Visit the NHS website for more information on health conditions and the flu vaccine.

The COVID-19 booster vaccine

So far thousands of people who are at a higher risk of COVID-19 due to underlying health conditions have come forward for their vaccine. We are encouraging more people to come forward to ensure they are protected.

You're considered at high risk from COVID-19 if you have:

  • Long-term lung conditions (such as severe asthma, COPD, bronchiectasis and cystic fibrosis)
  • Long-term conditions affecting the heart or blood vessels (such as congenital heart disease, heart failure and peripheral arterial disease)
  • Long-term kidney disease
  • Long-term liver conditions (such as cirrhosis and hepatitis)
  • Conditions affecting the brain or nerves (such as dementia, Parkinson's disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, cerebral palsy or stroke)
  • Severe or multiple learning disabilities
  • Down's syndrome
  • Diabetes
  • Problems with the spleen or the spleen has been removed (splenectomy)
  • Severe obesity (a BMI of 40 or above)
  • Severe mental conditions (such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder)
  • A condition or treatment that makes you more likely to get infections
  • A condition your doctor advises puts you at high risk

Most people will be invited to book an appointment at a larger vaccination centre, pharmacy, or local NHS service for their COVID-19 booster vaccines.

Go to the NHS website for more information on who is at high risk from COVID-19. Cllr Piers Allen, Lead member for Adult Social Care and Health and Chair of the Richmond Health and Wellbeing Board, said:

“We all know how devastating COVID-19 can be as an illness. With flu, people often think that it’s just a bad cold. For those with existing health conditions, both illnesses can be really dangerous and may result in a stay in hospital, or even death.

“Please take the time to get your free flu vaccine and your COVID-19 booster vaccine, and protect yourself and those around you from being unwell this winter.”

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Up to: January 2022

Updated: 14 January 2022