The Academy of Medical Sciences issued a report in July predicting that COVID-19, the flu, and the Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) could strain the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) this winter.
According to Sky News, UK health officials have warned that there is a “realistic possibility” that the country will face a surge in flu cases this winter.
” We expect influenza to be much more common in the 21/22 winter”, Chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency Dr Jenny Harries was cited as saying.
Dr. Nikki Kanani, deputy head of the National Health Service’s (NHS) vaccination programme, echoed the warning, saying, “We do have an increased risk from flu and COVID this year.”
Experts warn of a lack of immunity due to the previous winter’s extremely low flu infection rates.
“Not many people got flu last year because of Covid-19 restrictions, so there isn’t as much natural immunity in our communities as usual. We will see flu circulate this winter; it might be higher than usual and that makes it a significant public health concern,” England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam was cited as saying.
Furthermore, this winter will be plagued by a trifecta of flu (influenza), COVID-19, and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV).
All of this is exacerbated by the fact that social distancing measures, which were previously in place during the pandemic, have been removed in the country, resulting in increased mixing and the opening of travel borders.
According to Jonathan Van-Tam, the winter of 1989/90, when approximately 19,000 extra flu deaths were recorded, can be regarded as a “marker.”
The Academy of Medical Sciences predicts that flu-related deaths and hospitalizations will more than double this year.
The Academy commissioned a report earlier this summer that concluded that the National Health Service (NHS) could be strained to breaking point as a result of the additional winter health challenges.
According to the report, “COVID-19: Preparing for the future, looking ahead to Winter 2021/22 and beyond,” hospital admissions and deaths from flu and RSV could more than double those seen in a typical year. According to the report’s modelling, this could result in 60,000 flu deaths and 40,000 children hospitalised with RSV.
Experts emphasised that because a possible increase in flu cases would coincide with an increase in COVID-19 infections, the NHS would face a backlog of routine care while also operating with fewer beds due to infection control measures.
The NHS is facing a staff shortage of nearly 84,000 people, according to the report.
Furthermore, flu, RSV, and other respiratory viruses exhibit the same symptoms as COVID-19, emphasising the importance of tests to differentiate between the two. Health experts advocated for measures to ensure that those who are eligible for flu vaccinations receive them.
In response to concerns about the triple threat to public health, the UK government has launched the largest flu vaccination campaign in NHS history. Over 35 million people in England, including secondary school students up to year 11, are eligible for a free vaccine.
The NHS hopes to reach at least 85 percent of people aged 65 and up with the flu vaccine. At least 75% of people with underlying health conditions, 75% of pregnant women, 70% of eligible children, and at least 85% of all health and social care workers will be targeted.
“This year we are rolling out the largest flu vaccine programme in our history, alongside the new Covid-19 booster vaccine rollout; both are important to provide vital protection not only to yourself but also your loved ones while also helping to ease pressure on the NHS,” said Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid.
A new campaign video urging people to schedule flu shots has been released. People are encouraged to get flu shots as well as COVID-19 booster shots. So far, approximately 1.7 million people have received the third coronavirus vaccine, with an additional 28 million people in England eligible.
While an estimated 11,000 people die from flu each year in England, a recent Cabinet Office survey found that more than half of the 3,000 respondents (55 percent) believe the figure is lower.
Almost one-third of those polled were unaware that flu and COVID-19 could be contagious at the same time. More than a quarter of those polled were not aware that flu can be fatal.