Get winter strong - woman flexes her bicep on a yellow background with the text Getting your flu and covid vaccines means your symptoms will be milder and you will recover quicker this winter

National marketing campaign launches, targeting those eligible but still unvaccinated.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England are urging those eligible who’ve not yet come forward for the flu and COVID-19 vaccines to ‘get winter strong’ and join the millions of others in taking up the offer ahead of the festive and new year season when flu and COVID-19 are expected to peak.

A total of 11.7 million people in England have had the flu vaccine so far, with 8.6 million taking up the COVID-19 booster, but millions more in vulnerable groups remain at risk.

As part of a drive to encourage those eligible but still unvaccinated to come forward, TV doctor and former Gladiator Dr Zoe Williams is fronting a major new national marketing campaign, which was launched on 1 November.

Adverts encouraging people to ‘get winter strong’ – with gladiatorial creatives and copy – will appear on TV on demand, radio and billboards, with further content across social media and in newspapers throughout the campaign, which runs from 1 November to mid-December.

For the flu and COVID-19 vaccines, the campaign targets pregnant women, and those with ongoing health conditions, as these groups have more recently had lower vaccine uptake despite being at higher risk. The campaign also aims to engage parents of children aged 2 and 3 (on 31 August) to get their children vaccinated against flu.

"Dr Mary Ramsay, Director of Immunisation at UKHSA, said:

As the weather turns colder, respiratory viruses spread more easily and usually reach their peak over the festive and new year period.

For those most vulnerable, both flu and COVID-19 can cause severe illness, often hospitalisation. Nobody wants to miss out on the festive celebrations with their friends and family this winter and the vaccines provide the best possible protection.

I urge all those eligible to join the millions of others who have taken up their free vaccine offer to get winter strong – don’t put it off, book your appointment today and arm yourself against the risk of severe illness."

GP and TV Doctor Zoe Williams said:

"Getting the flu and COVID-19 vaccines can help prepare your immune system, helping to make you winter strong and better able to fight off these illnesses if they come your way.

If you are eligible it’s because you are at higher risk of severe illness, so now is the time to get protected before winter arrives. Pregnant women and those with chronic health conditions are particularly at risk from flu and COVID-19 and young children aged 2 and 3 from flu.

My 2 year old recently had their flu nasal spray vaccination. It was quick and painless, and I’d strongly encourage other parents to take up the offer. Nobody wants to see their child getting unwell with what can be a nasty illness, especially with the winter festivities ahead."

Steve Russell, Chief Delivery Officer and National Director for Vaccinations and Screening at NHS England, said:

"Getting the flu and COVID-19 vaccines are two of the most important things you can do to protect yourself from serious illness this winter. We are delighted that over 20 million winter vaccines have already been given – making this the fastest flu rollout on record – and hope that others will come forward when they see this campaign, particularly those most at risk.

There are thousands of sites open across the country and eligible adults can book both vaccines online or through the NHS App in just a few minutes – if you’re eligible, we’d urge you to get both vaccinations as soon as you can, to help protect yourself and your loved ones and get winter strong."

Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Thomas Waite, says:

"Flu and COVID can cause severe illness and hospitalisations for vulnerable people, so it’s essential you protect yourself by booking your jab.

If you are eligible, please come forward and get your jabs as soon as possible to make sure you have the best protection against these viruses."

National charities are also urging those with health conditions that make them more vulnerable to serious complications of flu and COVID-19 to come forward to get their jabs.

Pamela Healy, chief executive at the British Liver Trust, said: 

"People with a liver condition, particularly those with advanced liver disease or who are immunosuppressed, are among the highest risk groups when it comes to COVID-19 and flu so the vaccine is the best form of protection for them against the virus. 

We therefore recommend that all eligible liver disease patients should strongly consider vaccination."

Douglas Twenefour, Head of Care at Diabetes UK, said:

"People with diabetes have a higher risk of becoming seriously ill if they get COVID-19, and are also at a higher risk of developing serious complications from flu. Vaccines are the safest, most effective way of protecting us from both COVID-19 and flu, and if you or a loved one is living with diabetes, it’s so important to get both jabs this winter. Not only do these vaccines offer individual protection, they also help protect those around us."

John James, Chief Executive of Sickle Cell Society, said:

"As we move into the winter season, those living with sickle cell disease can be more susceptible to the harmful effects of COVID-19 and flu. We welcome that both vaccines are being offered again this year to sickle cell patients who we know were adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Vaccines are the best defence against severe illness, which is why we are encouraging anyone who is living with the disease to come forward and book their free COVID and flu jabs to keep them safe and well this winter."

Fiona Loud, Policy Director at Kidney Care UK, said:

"COVID-19 still poses risks to thousands of immunocompromised people who don’t have the same level of protection from the vaccines as the general public does. People with kidney disease are also vulnerable to flu complications. Evidence shows that COVID-19 protection increases with each booster dose so it’s really important that as many people as possible take up the offer of COVID-19 and flu vaccines. If you live with someone who is offered the vaccines because they are immunocompromised or have kidney disease then you are eligible too, so we urge everyone to check if they can have their free vaccines, and if they are, to arrange to have these as soon as they can."

For more information visit Seasonal vaccinations and winter health or use the NHS App.

Published: Thursday, 2nd November 2023