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08th Oct 2021

Respiratory illnesses could claim 60,000 lives this winter as flu jab campaign launched

Kieran Galpin


This winter will be harder without social distancing, warns health officials

UK health chiefs have warned that there is a “realistic possibility” that the UK will see an uptake in flu cases this winter.

Hospital admissions and deaths from flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) could more than double those seen in “normal” years, said a recent report from the Academy of Medical Sciences and reported on by Sky News.

England’s deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam says the winter of 89/90, which saw 19,000 excess flu deaths, is the “marker” and perhaps a sign of the winter to come.

This worrying report suggests that we could see as many as 60,000 flu deaths and 40,000 kids in hospital with RSV.

In response, the government has launched a short film hoping people will book their vaccine appointments.

Dr Amir Khan, Dr Dawn Harper and Dr Karan Rajan are featured in the video talking about the importance of getting vaccinated against both viruses before winter.

Extremely low flu infection rates last winter means that the effectiveness of community immunity will also decrease, says Sky News. Depending on the strain of flu circulating, the average year sees 11,000 people die a year but this could increase in the months to come.

A recent survey conducted by the Cabinet Office paints a troubling picture of the flu’s perception. The survey found that 55 per cent of people think the death rate of flu is much lower than 11,000. One in three people did not know that both the flu and Covid could operate at the same time, and a further 26 per cent were unaware that the flu could kill.

“We expect influenza to be much more common in the 21/22 winter,” said Chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, Dr Jenny Harries.

Professor Van-Tam said he was “very confident” that there would be a positive response to both vaccines being given out together, adding: “My advice would always be to get the protection on board as soon as possible.”

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