Those eligible for the flu and COVID-19 vaccines this winter are urged to come forward for vaccination.
With more than one million COVID-19 vaccines administered so far this winter, Public Health Scotland (PHS) is encouraging eligible people to take up the offer of their COVID-19 and flu vaccines as soon as possible.
During the colder winter months when people stay indoors for longer, and in larger groups, there is an increase in the number of people experiencing coughs, colds and flu-like illnesses.
Vaccination remains the best way to protect yourself against flu and COVID-19 and we strongly encourage eligible people to take up the vaccination offer now, to help avoid missing out on socialising with friends and family over the peak winter season.
This year’s winter vaccination programme is focused on protecting those most vulnerable to flu and COVID-19. In particular, people with underlying health conditions, such as heart conditions or liver disease, that put them at greater risk of severe illness from flu and COVID-19. Pregnant women are strongly recommended to take up the vaccines, as these give them and their babies the best possible protection against serious illness from the viruses.
All frontline health and social care workers are eligible for the free flu and COVID-19 vaccines. The vaccines offer protection against the most likely circulating strains.
This week’s Viral respiratory diseases report shows that the winter vaccination programme for 2023 is well underway, with Health Boards across Scotland delivering flu and COVID-19 vaccines at pace to those eligible this season.
While many eligible people have booked their vaccination appointment, those that haven’t should do so as soon possible. There is now increased availability, so anyone who previously had difficulty getting an appointment on the booking portal is encouraged to please try again. Alternatively, look at whether your local Health Board is running drop-in clinics where an appointment is not necessary.
If you think you may be eligible for either a flu or COVID-19 vaccine this winter (or both) you can check using our self help guide at www.nhsinform.scot/wintervaccines and book an appointment.
Dr Nick Phin, Director of Public Health Science, PHS said:
"Vaccination remains the best way to protect yourself and others and we’re pleased to see so many people coming forward to take up the offer.
"Evidence shows that COVID-19 vaccine protection fades and the flu virus changes over time. The vaccinations offered this season top up your protection against severe illness from COVID-19 and flu.
"Those that have not yet received their vaccinations are encouraged to come forward and make an appointment or check local arrangements. There are a range of vaccination sites available in each Health Board, with some now offering drop-ins too."
Professor Sir Gregor Smith, Chief Medical Officer for Scotland, said:
"Flu and COVID-19 can still be serious, and can result in hospitalisation. The vaccines are the best protection we have against the viruses, and it’s important that all those who are eligible get vaccinated as soon as possible. This is especially true for pregnant women and people with underlying conditions, who are at increased risk from the viruses.
"Anyone who is eligible and who hasn’t yet been contacted about their vaccines can book an appointment using the online booking portal or by calling the vaccination helpline. If you are unsure about your eligibility, or that of your child, you can use the self-help guide on NHS inform. If you’ve been given an appointment for a time, date or location that doesn’t suit, you can also use the online portal to book a more suitable appointment.
"The flu virus changes every year and protection from the COVID-19 vaccine fades over time, so it’s important you get the winter vaccines when offered. I’d like to thank everyone who has already come forward for vaccination and would urge all those who are eligible and have still to be vaccinated to ensure they are protected ahead of winter.”
Justine Craig, Chief Midwifery Officer for Scotland, said:
"If you’re pregnant, you’re eligible for both the flu and COVID-19 vaccines this winter. The flu and COVID-19 vaccines are recommended in pregnancy by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and the Royal College of Midwives.
"The vaccines are the best way to help protect pregnant women and their babies against the known risks of flu and COVID-19 in pregnancy. They can be given at any stage during pregnancy and are safe if you’re planning on breastfeeding.
"If you need information about the winter vaccines, you can speak to your midwife, who will also be able to advise you on how to get vaccinated."