GET ready for your winter flu and COVID-19 vaccinations – that is the message going out across Dumfries and Galloway.
A push to vaccinate the region’s care home residents and staff began last Monday, and amid a good and speedy uptake all other eligible recipients are now being advised to get ready for their vaccinations.
Director of Public Health Valerie White says: “We’ve seen a great start to this flu and COVID vaccination programme – which is a highly important one as we head towards the winter period.
“We’ve seen a challenging winter flu season in Australia, and our population has had very little exposure to the flu after so much time spent guarding against infection. The flu vaccines which have been readied are a really good match, to hopefully provide the best level of protection.
“Meanwhile, we know that the protection against COVID-19 offered by vaccinations gradually fades over time. Although we may not be currently facing the numbers of cases and seriously ill people that we had at one point, that could quickly change as we head into winter.
“This year we have the first bivalent COVID vaccines which protect not just against the original strain but the Omicron variant, which is causing most cases of COVID-19 today. It’s very important that everyone eligible boosts their defences to help protect themselves, their loved ones, our communities and vital services.”
Vaccinations against flu and COVID-19 are following the same approach as programmes last year.
Working to national directions based on guidance from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), the programme aims to prioritise those most vulnerable, and to keep health and social care services running to help everyone.
On Monday 5 September, vaccination teams from NHS Dumfries and Galloway, supported by their colleagues in the Health and Social Care Partnership, went into action across the region to vaccinate staff and residents in care homes.
The next stage, over a two-week period from Saturday 10 September, is to vaccinate staff in the NHS, Dumfries and Galloway Council’s social care team, and other care providers across the region.
And, later this month, vaccinations will begin for older people and those with health conditions that make them particularly vulnerable.
The flu vaccination programme within schools starts on September 26, while the co-administration of flu and COVID-19 vaccinations for those aged 65 and 69 begins on October 17. The final cohort is those aged 50 to 64, and their vaccinations will begin on or before December 1.
The first letters inviting people for vaccination have already gone out. Some groups will be given a date and time for their vaccination, and others will receive instructions to book their own appointment online.
Valerie White said: “I would encourage everyone eligible to be vaccinated to take up that opportunity – it’s an easy and free way to increase your chances of staying healthy this winter.”
Public health consultant Dr Nigel Calvert says: “People in Dumfries and Galloway have already been very supportive of COVID-19 vaccination.
“The region has one of the highest COVID-19 vaccination rates in the entire country, and almost 80 per cent of people have already had three doses – that’s something we should all be very proud of, and it has had a huge effect in keeping people in Dumfries and Galloway safe and reducing the seriousness of illness.
“The worst of the pandemic is past, thanks to everyone’s efforts over the last two years, but COVID-19 is still around and it can still have serious health consequences. The booster, and the flu vaccination, will make a huge difference this winter by keeping everyone safe and keeping the health care system running smoothly.”