The final countdown for this year’s covid and flu vaccine bookings

12th December 2023

Dorset HealthCare vaccination clinic.jpgIn Dorset 219,000 eligible people have come forward for their COVID vaccine this autumn and winter, with more than 70,000 choosing to have both their flu and COVID vaccine together.

And with just a few days to go until online bookings for COVID and flu vaccines close, the NHS is urging anyone else who is eligible to book an appointment ahead of Christmas.

The NHS online booking system, NHS App and 119 phone service will be closed for flu and COVID vaccine bookings from Friday (15 December) – making Thursday (14 December) the last day to make a booking.

There are still hundreds of appointments available in the final week across the county offering extra protection to those eligible who have not yet come forward.

Paul Johnson, Chief Medical Officer at NHS Dorset, said:

“Vaccination is the best way for people to ensure they and their families are protected against flu and COVID this Christmas, a time when we tend to gather inside together and viruses spread more easily. It takes about two weeks following vaccination to build up the maximum defences against the viruses, so it’s important to get protected early.

“Getting vaccinated as soon as possible will help reduce your risk of getting seriously ill with flu or COVID this festive season. Even if you have had a vaccine before, or been ill with flu or COVID recently, the seasonal booster vaccine will help top-up your ability to fight these viruses, as immunity fades over time”.

It's still possible to get your vaccinations after 15 December through local NHS vaccination services, such as pharmacies, GP practices or community hospital walk-in sites. However, there will be fewer COVID appointments and you may need to travel further.

People can continue booking the COVID vaccine through local services until 31 January. After that, COVID vaccinations will close, and people will be required to wait for a future seasonal campaign – unless they develop a new health condition or start treatment that severely weakens the immune system, in which case a clinician may advise vaccination sooner.

For those eligible for a free flu vaccine after 15 December, it will still be possible to book one by contacting their GP surgery or by finding a pharmacy that offers the NHS flu vaccination for over-18s.

The free flu vaccine offer will close after 31 March. However, getting it as soon as possible is encouraged to ensure protection over the colder months when flu is usually more prevalent.

Parents should also ensure that eligible children are protected against the flu with the nasal spray vaccine, as they are at a higher risk of catching and spreading the virus. If caught, it can lead to serious problems like bronchitis and pneumonia.

The flu vaccine, usually given as a nasal spray, will be offered in schools until 15 December. Parents can call to book an appointment for their two- or three-year-olds (aged two or three on 31 August 2023) or children with certain health conditions at their GP practice until 31 March.

If you are experiencing cold and flu symptoms on the day of your vaccinations, it's advisable to rebook your appointment for when you are well.

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