This article was written by Damian and published in this week's Herald and Petersfield Post editions:
"From last Friday, just ahead of half term, parents of 12 to 15 year olds were able to book covid vaccinations for their children via the expanded NHS National Booking Service.
Although this is in addition to the schools programme, which has already vaccinated nearly half a million young people, millions of letters are being sent to parents and guardians of this age group inviting them to book the appointments online or by calling 119.
This expansion is important as there are good reasons why a child or parent may want to use the online service, including if a child was unwell on the day the vaccinations took place at their school, or they have turned 12 since that day.
But of course, the booster vaccine rollout is also critical, and the government has this week started a major advertising campaign to encourage those who are eligible to get their covid booster jab as well as their seasonal flu jab.
Take up of the first two covid doses has been extremely high, with almost 81,000 people in East Hampshire having had the first dose and just over 76,000 having had their second. Despite this, there have been concerns that people underestimate the combined risk of covid and flu this coming winter.
Whilst the vaccines provide a high level of protection against severe disease, hospitalisation and death, a recent Public Health England report shows that around 1 in 5 people who have had both doses are still vulnerable to getting infected with the Delta variant and showing symptoms.
We also know that it is still possible to catch and spread covid, even if you are fully vaccinated, and that immunity does reduce over time.
With colder weather often leading to increased transmission of viruses, clinicians have also warned that there could be a significant flu surge this winter, as immunity to flu is expected to be lower due to the much lower levels of the virus circulating last winter.
People will be invited for the booster jab when it’s their turn, but if individuals have not been contacted within a week of reaching 6 months since their second jab they can call 119 or book online.
This year will see the country’s largest flu programme in history, with 35 million people eligible for a free vaccine, and those who are eligible for a free flu vaccine can book an appointment through their GP surgery or local pharmacy.
The message is clear. The best way to protect yourself, your family and friends, as well as the health service we all rely on, is to get vaccinated, get boosted, get protected.
Recent news on antivirals is also encouraging, with the prospect of a rollout through a clinical study this winter. The two new antivirals are expected to be given to those most at risk, helping reduce the severity of symptoms and ease pressure on the NHS over winter.
Should the treatments be approved by the MHRA, then thousands of patients will be able to access the treatments to prevent infection from spreading and to speed up recovery time.
Also new this week is the move to enable fully vaccinated passengers and most under 18s arriving from non red-list countries to use a lateral flow test on their arrival in England.
Replacing the need for the more expensive PCR tests, the lateral flow tests can now be purchased through the private providers list on gov.uk and should be taken as soon as possible after arrival or at the latest before the end of a passenger’s second day.
Passengers will need to send a photo of their test result to the provider, with fines of up to £1,000 if people fail to do so. Anyone with a positive result will need to take a free PCR test and isolate as necessary.
Covid continues to impact our lives in so many ways and learning to live with it and to manage the risk to ourselves remains a priority for all of us."