AGE UK: The single best thing older people can do for their health this autumn is to have their booster COVID-19 jab and their flu jab
Published on 01 November 2021 12:06 PM
Age UK is urging all older people to stay well this winter and wherever possible to have both the Covid 19 booster vaccine and the flu jab.
Adults at high risk from flu are also most at risk from COVID-19, and both can be serious illnesses. Each year on average 11,000 people in England die of influenza[i], and in 2017/18 before the Covid-19 pandemic, Public Health England estimated that figure reached a staggering 22,000 deaths,[ii] the highest death toll in recent years.
Last year cases of flu were unusually low due to the pandemic restrictions[iii] but experts expect flu to return as a significant risk this winter. This makes its vital that older people protect themselves by having the vaccinations that are offered to them.
Dr Amir Khan, NHS doctor and regular on ITV’s Lorraine and Good Morning Britain, said: “Having both vaccinations is the best way to protect yourself against flu and COVID 19, and you will also be providing protection from these serious illnesses for those around you.
“During wintertime, respiratory illnesses are more common and particularly this winter, when more people are likely to get flu as fewer people will have built up natural immunity to it during the pandemic. COVID-19 and the flu are nasty viruses which can both cause hospitalisations – the best way to protect yourself against them is to have these potentially lifesaving vaccinations.”
Age UK’s latest survey of people in England aged over 60 shows that the intention among older people to have both the flu and covid booster vaccinations is pretty positive with:
- 78% of adults aged 60+ intending to get the flu vaccination this winter, with 82% of older people with a long-term health condition likely to get the flu vaccine to protect their health (compared to 76% without a long-term health condition).
- However, only 65% of older Black, Asian and minority ethnicity people intend to get the flu vaccine, compared to 80% of older white people.
- 78% of older adults said they would get the flu vaccination to help reduce the pressure on the NHS during flu season.
- And 73% of older adults would get the flu vaccination to protect others around them.
And there is similar positivity among those intending to have the Covid booster vaccination with:
- 81% of older adults agreeing the booster vaccination protects their health.
- 80% of older adults aged 60+ believing the booster vaccination will give them greater protection against Covid-19.
- 55% of older adults agreeing that the booster vaccination will help them gain more freedom.
- And 76% of older adults believing the booster vaccine protects others around them.
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK said: “Our advice to older people is that if you only do one thing to protect your health this autumn please do take up the offer of a COVID booster and a flu jab when it comes your way. It’s perfectly safe to have them together, and often more convenient too, so if that’s what you are offered please do accept – you’ll be doing yourself a lot of good and helping to protect everyone else you come into contact with too.
“We are pleased that our research with older people shows that the great majority intend to get their COVID booster and flu jab when they are called, but that still leaves a worrying number who may well decline or otherwise fail to get jabbed. We need to work harder to ensure that every older person understands the benefits of these vaccinations, which greatly outweigh the risks, and make it easy and straightforward for them to obtain their shots in their local areas.
“It’s true that we are in a different place now, compared to the frightening situation we faced when the COVID vaccines first became available, but the pandemic still has some way to run and flu poses a serious threat to older people each and every year. These two vaccinations are the best defence we have against seeing our health put at risk and our economy and daily lives derailed this winter, so we cannot overstate how important it is that everyone who is eligible actually receives them.
“Anyone who would like further information about the vaccinations is very welcome to visit www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination/book-coronavirus-vaccination or call 119.”
Age UK’s data shows that a small, but significant, number of older people are worried about receiving the Covid booster. The survey also found:
- 9% believe the covid booster vaccination is not safe – 13% of 60-64s and 11% of 65-69s compared to 4% of those aged 70+.
- 14% of older adults are worried about the side effects of the booster vaccination – out of those it was older women being more likely to be worried (18%) than men (9%).
- Older Black, Asian and minority ethnicity people were twice as likely (25%) to be worried about the side effects than older white people (12%).
It was a similar picture for those who are eligible for the flu vaccination:
- 21% of 60-64s and 13% of 65-69s said they did not intend to get the flu vaccination this winter.
- 16% of older adults didn’t think the flu vaccination is effective in protecting them against flu - with 8% of older adults saying they would not get the flu vaccine because they’re worried about the side effects.
- 8% of adults aged 60+ were unsure whether they would get the flu vaccination this winter.
The source for figures in this press release is online polling conducted on the Research Express Online Omnibus by Kantar Polling between 31st August 2021 and 13th September 2021, of 1,598 people aged 60+ in the UK.
[i] Flu is a serious condition that kills, on average, 11,000 people in England each year and hospitalises many more. Adults at high risk from flu are also most at risk from COVID-19. The free vaccine is more important than ever to help protect the nation from a double threat this winter.
[ii] Public Health England estimated that over the 2017/18 flu season, there were around 22,000 deaths associated with flu in England. This was one of the highest flu death tolls in recent years, but is still significantly lower than the current death toll from Covid
[iii] Last winter the flu vaccination uptake was the highest it had ever been at 80.9% among those 65 and over (compared to 72.4% in 2019 to 2020). There were just 40 hospitalised confirmed influenza cases (reported by 56 acute trusts). This compares to a total of 4,918 cases in 2020 (reported by less than half the amount of acute trusts at 22)