MILLIONS of Brits given free NHS flu jabs last year won’t be eligible this autumn.
Invites will not be dished out to 50- to 64 year-olds, meaning up to 12million adults could miss out on vaccines.
The rollout of jabs is expected to start later this season in OctoberCredit: PA:Press Association
In plans expected to be announced today, the same cohort will also be excluded from Covid boosters for 2023 as the government axes pandemic policies.
Only those aged 50 to 65 in a clinical risk group, working as carers or in healthcare remain eligible for coronavirus and flu jabs.
The reduced rollout is expected to start in October, according to the Telegraph.
The vaccination drive usually begins in early September to ensure sufficient protection against an early flu season.
Before the pandemic, flu jabs were offered to adults over the age of 65, children and younger adults with health conditions.
The scope of eligibility was widened during the pandemic to include those over 50, in line with the rollout of Covid boosters.
However, all secondary school children, years seven to 11, will be offered the flu vaccine as a nasal spray from September 1.
It comes as Australia – which usually forecasts England’s flu season – is experiencing one of its biggest flu seasons on record, with children making up four in five flu-related hospital admissions.
Professor Lawrence Young, a virologist at Warwick University, said the decision to axe jabs was “very short-sighted.
“It will inevitably result in more infections requiring medical treatment as well as people having to take time off from work,” he explained.
He added: “Delaying vaccine rollout until October runs the risk of new covid variants and the flu virus spreading before people are adequately protected.”
It comes as new Covid variant dubbed Eris has emerged causes cases to spike.
Some 4,396 were reported to the UKHSA through the Respiratory DataMart System in the week leading up to July 31.
This was a sharper rise compared to the week previous, when cases rose by 3.7 per cent to 4,403.
Hospital admissions due to Covid also increased in that same week among all age groups, the health watchdog added in its most recent report.
UKHSA chiefs claim the variant already has a 20.5 per cent growth advantage on other strains.
Data also suggests it accounts for 14.6 per cent of cases, making it the second most prevalent in the UK.
Arcturus – an offshoot of Omicron – remains the most dominant variant.
What’s the difference between the flu and Covid?
Covid and the flu are caused by different viruses, but annoyingly can have very similar symptoms.
And as different strains of Covid-19 have arisen – recent variants proving to be milder – it’s become harder to tell the difference between the two bugs.
The symptoms of flu are very similar to those of a very bad cold.
The NHS says this includes a high temperature of 38C or more.
A high temperature had previously been a symptom of Covid, but experts said that this is less likely with the Omicron strain.
You may also experience body aches and a dry cough, and have difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite and feeling or being sick.
You are less likely to experience these with or the Covid Omicron strain.
So when it comes to spotting the difference between flu and Covid, it should be straight forward.
The easiest way to check you have Covid is to take a test.
These are available for free for some groups – such as those who are at high risk of becoming seriously ill from the bug – for example, if you are immunosuppressed.
You may also be asked to take a test if you are going to hospital for a procedure.
Data from ZOE states that people who are catching Omicron are showing specific symptoms.
Analysis from the app states that there are 20 symptoms Brits should be on the lookout for. These include:
- Sore throat – 63.55%
- Runny nose – 53.04%
- Headache – 53.02%
- Blocked nose – 52.47%
- Cough no phlegm – 52.06%
- Sneezing – 47.02%
- Cough with phlegm – 45.79%
- Hoarse voice – 43.86%
- Muscle pain aches – 29.46%
- Fatigue – 22.97%
- Dizzy light headed – 21.11%
- Altered smell – 19.82%
- Swollen neck glands – 17.72%
- Eye soreness – 16.41%
- Chest pain tightness – 16.26%
- Shortness of breath – 15.9%
- Loss of smell – 14.45%
- Earache – 13.96%
- Chills or shivers – 12.98%
- Joint pain shoulders – 11.08%