Get Bitten and Support the Health Service – Chief Medical Officer

Chief Medical Officer Professor Sir Michael McBride has urged people to support the health service this winter by getting vaccinated to protect themselves and reduce their risk of ending up in hospital.

The COVID-19 and flu vaccination program is being rolled out by Health and Social Care Trusts, GPs and community pharmacies across Northern Ireland.

Those most vulnerable to serious illness if infected with COVID-19 or the flu, including nursing home residents, were among the first to receive the vaccines, and shots are now being offered more widely. In addition, schools provide flu shots to all primary and secondary school children through grade 12.

Professor Sir Michael McBride said: “Although we have experienced mild weather recently, our health and social care services have been under extreme stress and are likely to remain so for a considerable period. With the rapid approach of winter, these pressures are expected to worsen with the expected increase in COVID-19 cases, alongside rising levels of influenza and other respiratory infections.

“Influenza activity levels have been extremely low globally over the past two winters, primarily due to COVID-19 prevention measures. As a result, we are facing a drop in immunity levels from the population against the flu this year. This could lead to a real threat to health, especially for vulnerable members of our community, and additional pressure on our health services and personnel.

“Available vaccines help prolong the protection already received from initial vaccinations against COVID-19, while the flu vaccine is needed every year because the antibodies that protect you against the flu decrease over time and the strains of flu change. from year to year.

“The message is clear – if you are eligible for the flu vaccine, the COVID-19 vaccine or both, please accept the offer.”

Flu and COVID-19 vaccines are offered free to more than one million people in Northern Ireland this year.

Those eligible for the COVID-19 booster will largely be offered a booster dose of the bivalent vaccine Comirnaty (Pfizer/BioNTech) or the bivalent vaccine Spikevax (Moderna). Both vaccines are safe, effective and provide high levels of protection.

The Chief Medical Officer added: “A small number of people may be offered one of the original COVID-19 vaccines as a booster. This vaccine will also provide significant protection. The advice remains that the best vaccine to get is the one that is available and offered to you.

“Many people will be offered the flu shot and the COVID-19 booster shot at the same appointment. It is safe and effective to receive them this way and guarantees you better protection against both diseases.

The groups eligible for the flu vaccine in 2022 to 2023 are:

* People aged 50 and over (as of March 31, 2023)
* Persons aged 6 months to 2 years and 16 to 49 years in clinical risk groups
* Pregnant women
* All preschoolers aged 2 or older as of September 1, 2022
* All primary and secondary students (up to grade 12)
* Those in long-term care homes
* Caregivers
* Family contact of immunocompromised people
* Front-line health and social service workers.

The groups eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine in 2022 to 2023 are:

* All adults aged 50 and over (as of March 31, 2023)
*People aged 5-49 years in a clinical risk group
* Pregnant women
* Aged care home residents and staff working in aged care homes
*People ages 5-49 who are household contacts of immunosuppressed people
* People aged 16-49 who are caregivers
* Front-line health and social service workers.

The first, second and reminder COVID-19 are still available for those who have not yet accepted the vaccination offer