TODAY The Sun is launching a health campaign urging unvaccinated people to ‘Do The Double’ and get Covid and flu jabs ahead of the World Cup.
NHS bosses want to avoid a repeat of the coronavirus wave that followed last year’s Euros.
And yesterday two of the biggest names in English football – Gary Lineker and Sir Geoff Hurst – supported our Do The Double campaign. Millions of those eligible for jabs have not had them, with 13 million in England due to an Omicron Covid booster and 18 million still due to a flu vaccine.
Doctors fear a ‘twindemic’ virus could cripple hospitals this winter as they now face mass redundancies following the nurses’ strike vote.
Covid cases are falling, but experts are predicting a surge in the virus as fans start packing pubs and living rooms to watch Gareth Southgate’s team take to the pitch in Qatar after the World Cup kicks off on November 20.
Match Of The Day host Gary, 61, who scored 48 goals for England, and World Cup winner Sir Geoff, 80, urged football fans to get cracking.
Former striker Gary, Mexico ’86’s top scorer, told The Sun: “You can’t beat watching a World Cup with your friends and family, and nobody wants it ruined by Covid.
“I’ve had my booster jabs and I’m getting my flu jab next week, and I urge everyone who’s eligible to get theirs too.
“If you can, do double that. Come on, England!”
Sir Geoff, 80, whose hat-trick in the 1966 World Cup final saw England lift the trophy for the first and only time, said he backed our push “one million per cent”.
He added: “I’m surprised when people say they won’t get a Covid shock.
“Everyone at any level, at any age, should have a shot at being calcified.”
Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of NHS England, also urged Sun readers to protect themselves, whether they plan to watch at home or abroad.
England’s last major tournament, Euro 2021, saw Covid cases increase tenfold in a summer wave. Positive tests rose from 5,000 a day in the first week of June to 45,000 a day on July 15, just days after the Three Lions lost the final to Italy on penalties.
A government report later said that England’s Euro matches had caused “spikes in cases across the country”.
The Department of Health said many people who tested positive had “visited bars, pubs, other households and eaten out” on match days.
Mild Omicron means that Covid is less dangerous now, but those who are infected still face game from their sickbed if they are not protected.
The jabs will reduce the risk of flu or Covid infection during the winter, but immunity can take weeks to kick in, with kick-off in Qatar just nine days away.
Dr Paul Hunter, professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, said: “It’s important to get it done sooner rather than later.
“If you have a bump now, it would be very unlikely that you would be infected during the World Cup or over Christmas.
“The vaccines are now only offered to more vulnerable and older people who may not have had Covid recently or haven’t had the flu for two years.
“For them, watching football in a crowded pub is a big risk factor for getting a virus.” Around 33 million people are eligible for a free flu vaccine and 26 million can get a Covid booster in the autumn.
Yet only about half of the shots have been taken so far, with 15 million flu jabs and 13.9 million Covid refills.
Figures show that flu cases have increased in recent weeks and flu hospitalizations are above the average of recent years.
Although this fall’s Covid wave has begun to shrink, with a nine percent drop last week, there are still 1.6 million people infected with the virus, including 5,647 in hospital.
That’s why it makes sense for all of us – football fans or not – to Do The Double.
HOW CAN YOU DO IT?
WHO is eligible for the vaccines?
NHS England says 33 million people are eligible for a flu vaccine and 26 million could get a Covid booster in the autumn.
Flu jabs and Covid boosters are both available to anyone over 50, under 50s with serious health conditions, pregnant women, nursing home residents, frontline health workers, carers and anyone living with a person with a weakened immune system.
Free flu shots are also offered for children ages two to 11.
Anyone who has not received the first three Covid vaccines can book their next one at any time.
How do I book?
Online at nhs.uk, by calling 119 free of charge or by contacting your local pharmacy or GP practice.
Are they free?
Yes, both for eligible people. Those who are not eligible can pay for a flu jab from a high street pharmacy but it is not possible to buy a Covid-19 shot.
Can I have Covid and the flu on the same day?
Yes, many NHS websites offer to do this.
Studies have shown that administering the two injections together is safe and effective.
How long until I am protected?
It takes at least a week for a vaccine to work and up to three weeks for full protection. With the first match in Qatar just nine days away, sooner is better than later.
STRENGTHEN YOUR DEFENSES
By Amanda Pritchard, NHS Chief Executive
WE know the World Cup will bring the whole country together, with millions flocking to pubs and front venues to cheer on Gareth Southgate and his team.
But we also know that crowds are what viruses like best, whether it’s a cold, flu or even Covid.
So the best possible defense will be crucial – not only in Qatar but also here at home. If you are eligible for a Covid or flu vaccination this fall, make sure you go into the tournament match by topping up your coverage.
With flu already circulating and Covid never going away, there is a real threat of a ‘twindemic’ in what could be one of the toughest winters the NHS has faced.
We are doing everything we can to prepare, including adding extra hospital beds, introducing a national case service and rolling out data-driven ‘war rooms’ to coordinate care and make sure every extra bed is put to good use.
We’re also making it easier than ever for people to book Covid and flu jabs at more than 3,100 sites across the country, via the NHS website or by calling 119.
They can save your life and keep you out of the hospital.
So don’t make an own goal this World Cup. Take a chance on England so you can enjoy the football – along with Christmas and New Year.
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