Flu and covid autumn vaccine programmes in Tameside brought forward

Date Released - 08/09/2023

This year’s autumn flu and Covid-19 vaccine programmes, supported by Tameside Council, will start earlier than planned in England as a precautionary measure following the identification of a new Covid variant.

The precautionary measure is being taken as scientists from UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) examine the variant BA.2.86, which was first detected in the UK on Friday 18 August. All Tameside’s Primary Care Networks will be delivering vaccinations this winter, beginning from Monday 11 September, starting with adult care home residents and those at the highest risk.

According to the latest risk assessment by the UKHSA, BA.2.86 has a high number of mutations and has appeared in several countries in individuals without travel history, which suggests it has started to spread.

While BA.2.86 is not currently classified as a variant of concern, advice from the UKHSA suggests that speeding up the autumn vaccine programme will deliver greater protection, supporting those at greatest risk of severe illness and reducing the potential impact on the NHS.

The decision means those most at risk from winter illness – including people in care homes for older people, the clinically vulnerable, those aged 65 and over, health and social care staff and carers – will be able to access a Covid vaccine in September.

The annual flu vaccine will also be made available to these groups at the same time wherever possible, to ensure they are protected ahead of winter.

England will announce full details of the accelerated roll-out soon, and those who fall into higher-risk groups are being encouraged to take up the jab as soon as they’re invited.

There is no change to the wider public health advice at this time.

To make the process more efficient and in line with public health recommendations, wherever possible flu and Covid-19 vaccines should be administered at the same time.

The vaccination campaign was previously due to commence in early October. This is because the best protection is usually provided by getting vaccinated with as short a gap as possible before exposure to circulating influenza and Covid-19 viruses.

Cllr Eleanor Wills, Tameside Council Executive Member for Health and Wellbeing, said: "In bringing the winter vaccination campaign forward this year, more of our residents will be protected from the dangers of flu and COVID-19. I encourage anyone eligible for either vaccine to book an appointment as soon as they receive an invite from our local health providers to keep as many people healthy and well this winter as possible.”

The advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) for this autumn, is to offer the vaccine to those at high risk of serious disease from Covid-19 and who are therefore most likely to benefit from vaccination.

Those eligible for vaccination are encouraged to take up the offer of the vaccine as soon as they are called to ensure they head into winter with the best protection.