Experts have warned that an early and sustained wave of flu will hit the United Kingdom this year after southern hemisphere nations have experienced a difficult flu season. With flu and COVID-19 cases set to rise, healthcare leaders are urging people to get the jabs they are eligible for as soon as possible.  

A winter of discontent 

As if the warnings of a cold and bleak winter from a financial perspective weren’t enough, health officials are predicting that COVID and flu will combine to hit particularly hard this year. UKHSA medical chief advisor, Dr Susan Hopkins, told the BBC that cases of COVID-19 were “turning in all four nations in the UK”.  

“We do believe we are starting to see our autumn wave of COVID” 

However, a rise in COVID cases isn’t the only cause for concern. The term “twindemic” is repopulating news sources as flu fears increase. Steve Russell is the NHS director for vaccinations and screening. He is worried that this will be the “first time we see the effects of the so called ‘twindemic’ with both COVID and flu in full circulation”. His advice for the “most susceptible” is to take their vaccines as soon as possible.  

Flu immunity has dropped 

Dr Hopkins described herself as “more worried about flu” than in previous years. Due to a “reduction of immunity” there are “strong indications” that we will suffer a combination of COVID and flu. This combination “poses a serious risk to our health”. She therefore echoes Russell’s advice: “if you are offered a jab, please come forward to protect yourself”. It is generally believed that a lower level of social interaction during previous winters caused fewer infections. However, as we continue to move forward and away from restrictions, we can only prepare ourselves to meet this season’s infections with vaccinations and precautions. 

A good match 

The UKHSA suggests that the flu jab selected for this season is appropriate for the seasonal influenza strain that is in circulation: H3N2. It has previously caused a bad season for the UK in 2017/18. The NHS will be offering the vaccine free to certain high-risk groups before widening the offer. This allows the most vulnerable to secure protection first.  

These warnings come just a few days after the WHO released a recommendation for vaccines for the 2023 flu season.  

To learn more about preparing influenza vaccines come to the World Vaccine Congress in Europe 2022.