Flu vaccination is especially important this year as more people are likely to get flu this winter. This is because less people will have built up immunity against the virus this year due to measures put in place for COVID-19 (mask-wearing, physical and social distancing, restrictions on international travel).

This is also the first year that flu will co-circulate alongside COVID-19. Research has shown that if you catch both viruses at the same time you are at increased risk of getting seriously ill. The best way to avoid catching and spreading flu is by having the vaccination before the flu season starts.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has reviewed available data and provided the advice that COVID-19 boosters are first offered to the most vulnerable no earlier than six months after completion of the first course of vaccination to provide maximum protection during the winter months. This includes frontline health and social care workers. It is vital that you maintain protection against severe illness from COVID-19, specifically hospitalisation and deaths during winter. The aim is to protect those who are most vulnerable and to protect the NHS.

The flu vaccine will help prevent you getting flu and is your best protection against the virus. It will not stop all flu viruses but if you do get the flu after vaccination, it’s likely to be milder and shorter-lived than it would otherwise have been. It takes between 10 and 14 days for your immune system to respond fully after you’ve had the flu jab.

The vaccination programme has already substantially reduced the risk from severe COVID-19 in the UK population. The latest national coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine surveillance report updated on 02 September, estimates the programme has adverted over 140,000 hospitalisations and between 102,500 and 109,500 deaths to date.

The COVID-19 vaccination will reduce the chance of you suffering from COVID-19 disease. It may take a few days for your body to build up some protection from the booster.

Like all medicines, no vaccine is completely effective – some people may still get COVID-19 despite having a vaccination, but this should be less severe.

Yes, as a healthcare worker you are eligible to receive both vaccines and therefore may be offered both jabs in the same appointment. However, it is important that you do not delay receiving either vaccine if you’re unable to get them at the same time. It is vital that you are fully protected as soon as possible.

Yes. The NHS would not offer any vaccinations to the public until it is safe to do so. The MHRA, the official UK regulator authorising licensed use of medicines and vaccines by healthcare professionals, has said these vaccines are safe and highly effective, and we have full confidence in their expert judgement and processes.

As with any medicine, vaccines are highly regulated products. There are checks at every stage in the development and manufacturing process, and continued monitoring once it has been authorised and is being used in the wider population.

As with your previous dose the common side effects are the same for all COVID-19 vaccines used in the UK, and include:

• having a painful, heavy feeling and tenderness in the arm where you had your injection. This tends to be worst around 1 to 2 days after the vaccine
• feeling tired
• headache
• general aches, or mild flu like symptoms

You can rest and take paracetamol (follow the dose advice in the packaging) to help make you feel better. Although feeling feverish is not uncommon for 2 to 3 days, a high temperature is unusual and may indicate you have COVID-19 or another infection.

Although a fever can occur within a day or 2 of vaccination, if you have any other COVID-19 symptoms or your fever lasts longer, stay at home and arrange to have a test. Symptoms following vaccination normally last less than a week. If your symptoms seem to get worse or if you are concerned, you can call NHS 111.

If you had serious side effects after any previous dose you may be advised to avoid or delay further vaccination. You should discuss this with your doctor or specialist.

The most common side effects from the flu vaccine can be a slight temperature or your arm may feel a little sore where you had the injection. Other side effects are rare.

No, the JCVI advises that the booster vaccine should be offered no earlier than six months after completion of the primary vaccine course.

After reviewing data on booster responses from different combinations of COVID-19 vaccines, JCVI advises a preference for the Pfizer-BioNTech (vaccine to be offered as the booster dose irrespective of which type of vaccine was used in the primary schedule). There is good evidence that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is well tolerated as a booster dose and will provide a strong booster response.

Alternatively, individuals may be offered a half dose of the Moderna vaccine, which should be well tolerated and is also likely to provide a strong booster response. A half dose of Moderna vaccine is advised over a full dose due to the levels of reactogenicity (side effects) seen following boosting with a full dose in clinical trials.

Where mRNA vaccines cannot be offered e.g. due to contraindication, vaccination with the AstraZeneca vaccine may be considered for those who received AstraZeneca vaccine in the primary course. More detail is available in the green book.

No, you need to finish the first course of your vaccination.

Everyone that is eligible that hasn’t already had their first or second COVID-19 vaccination will still be able to get vaccinated, even when the COVID-19 booster programme begins.

Everyone aged 18 and over can book their initial COVID-19 vaccination through the NHS booking service (call 119 free of charge, anytime between 7am and 11pm seven days a week).

Your employer will provide more information on how to get your flu vaccine and Covid-19 booster.

Yes, all pregnant women are recommended to receive the flu vaccine. There is evidence that suggests pregnant women are at increased risk from complications if they contract flu, the flu vaccine is the best protection against this.

Yes. If you are pregnant and in one of the groups that the JCVI has recommended for the boosters, you are eligible to receive a booster, no earlier than six months after completion of the first course of vaccination.

Yes. The viruses that cause flu can change every year, which means the flu (and the vaccine) this year may be different from last year.

Yes, the COVID-19 vaccine does not protect you from the flu, and vice versa. As you are eligible for both vaccines you should have them both.

If you’ve had COVID-19, it’s still safe to have the flu vaccine. It will still be effective at helping to prevent flu.

We are aware and appreciate that some colleagues have chosen not to have the COVID-19 vaccine for various reasons. We want to continue to support those colleagues, showing civility and respect, and help them to make an informed decision.

Following questions we wanted to clarify the situation in relation to personal data.

As part of the new legislation introduced by Government with effect from 1 April 2022, we needed to understand and record the vaccination status of individual colleagues. We are currently reporting the Trust’s vaccination position using staff vaccinations data from our local vaccination data and the NIMS system (a national system that contains all COVID-19 vaccination information within England).

Our Information Governance Team has reviewed the use of individual vaccination data from a data protection perspective and approved it in line with the Data Protection Act 2018 (including the UK General Data Protection Regulation) and the COPI (Control of Patient Information) Notice that is currently in place. This means we are legally able to use the NIMS to identify, validate and write directly to colleagues who are not fully vaccinated. Access to the NIMS data is restricted to those who need it in order to undertake this work and we do not access any other clinical systems to gather this data.   

If you have any questions, please email Mandatoryvaccinations@merseycare.nhs.uk

If you need any additional support during this time please remember that staff support is available via 0151 330 8103 (Switch House) or 01925 664 010 (Hollins Park House) or through the Cheshire and Merseyside Resilience Hub via: www.cheshiremerseyresiliencehub.nhs.uk