UKHSA publishes winter briefing

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has set out its winter briefing, highlighting the serious impacts of flu and urging those eligible to come forward for vaccination.

The announcement comes as data shows that last year’s programme prevented around 25,000 hospitalisations in England - the data also showed the flu vaccine reduced the risk of hospitalisations by two-thirds in children.

The data shows that excess winter deaths from flu were higher than those from COVID-19 in the 2022 to 2023 season - more than 14,000 were recorded.

All eligible groups are being urged to take up the flu and covid vaccine.

Professor Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser at UKHSA, said: "Last year, the flu virus was estimated to be responsible for over 14,000 excess deaths and tens of thousands of hospitalisations, including over 10,000 in children.

"Last winter the vaccine prevented an estimated 25,000 hospitalisations, but this could be even greater if all those eligible for the flu vaccine came forward this year. Pregnant women, young children and those with chronic health conditions are particularly vulnerable, and we have good evidence to suggest this year’s vaccine will offer good protection.

"Taking up both the flu and COVID-19 vaccines ahead of winter provides the best level of protection against severe illness and will help ease the pressure on the NHS this winter."

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Thomas Waite said: "Flu and COVID-19 circulated last winter, causing significant peaks and resulting in thousands of hospitalisations and deaths. It is important that we are protected against both.

"Vaccination is our strongest form of defence so if you are eligible, please come forward and get your jabs as soon as possible."