Health chiefs have warned that lockdowns and social distancing could have led to a drop in immunity to seasonal influenza which could result in the highest number of flu deaths this winter in 50 years. The Telegraph has more.
More than 35 million people will be offered flu jabs this winter, amid concern that prolonged restrictions on social contact have left Britain with little immunity.
Officials fear that this winter could see up to 60,000 flu deaths – the worst figure in Britain since the 1968 Hong Kong Flu pandemic – without strong uptake of vaccines.
There is also concern about the effectiveness of this year’s jabs, because the lack of flu last year made it harder for scientists to sample the virus and predict the dominant strains.
Health chiefs said the measures introduced over the past 18 months to protect the country against coronavirus would now put the public at greater risk of flu.
The NHS has already begun the rollout of flu jabs and COVID-19 boosters. Health chiefs will urge everyone eligible to take up their chance, with the launch of a major campaign on Friday to drive take-up.
Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, deputy chief medical officer, said: “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 circulating this winter; it might be higher than usual and that makes it a significant public health concern.”
Officials highlighted modelling from the Academy of Medical Sciences, which suggests this winter the UK could see between 15,000 and 60,000 flu deaths.
This compares with an average of 11,000 deaths a year in the five years before the COVID-19 pandemic.
The modelling warns that this winter could be far worse than normal for flu, precisely because of the physical distancing measures implemented over the last 18 months.
Worth reading in full.
Is this going to be the excuse for another national lockdown next month? Not to prevent the NHS being ‘overwhelmed’ by Covid patients, but by flu patients? If lockdowns beget lockdowns, does that mean we’re trapped in a never-ending lockdown cycle?