A new nationwide marketing campaign is launching on Monday (October 24) to encourage millions of eligible people to get a flu and COVID-19 booster to boost their immunity, with almost 10 million people in England already vaccinated.

The ad will run across TV, radio, social and digital media, highlighting the importance of people getting both vaccines to boost their protection this winter.

There will also be targeted messages for people with long-term conditions, pregnant women and ethnic minority communities, with a particular focus on those with low vaccine confidence, and will include examples of where vaccine uptake has been low in the past.

More than 10 million people in England are expected to receive their autumn COVID-19 booster by Monday, with 49.5% of those aged 65 and over getting a flu shot to help protect against serious illness over the winter.

The latest data on COVID-19 has shown that the number of cases and hospitalizations have been high in recent weeks.

The number of flu cases has increased rapidly over the past week, indicating that the season has started earlier than usual. This leads to increased pressure on emergency departments, with hospitalization rates and ICU most likely, the number of admissions is increasing among children under 5 years of age.

Deputy Prime Minister and Health and Social Care Minister Therese Coffey received the autumn booster this week and is urging those eligible to take up the offer as soon as possible, saying:

Our fall COVID vaccination and flu vaccination programs are in full swing. Vaccines are our best line of defense against both viruses and will help keep people out of hospital this winter.

While we’ve made great progress with nearly 10 million people, including myself, already upgraded, we’re actively encouraging everyone who’s eligible to step up for both kicks as soon as possible through our new marketing campaign.

Influenza vaccination is currently lagging behind last season for preschoolers (12.1% of all 2-year-olds and 12.8% of all 3-year-olds), pregnant women (12.4%) and those under 65 in the clinical risk group (18.2%).

Vaccines are the best protection against both viruses and will help reduce the number of people requiring hospital treatment, reducing pressure on the NHS.

England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Thomas Waite said:

The restrictions we put in place to contain the spread of COVID and protect the NHS last year have also prevented the flu virus from spreading as we would normally expect, so the level of immunity in the population is probably quite low.

The flu has started to circulate at a low level, mostly in children and young people at the moment. As winter approaches, we can expect an increase in the number of cases of influenza and COVID in all age groups. Getting vaccinated against both viruses is the single most important thing you can do to reduce your chances of getting seriously ill. If you’re eligible, please get your shots as soon as possible – it’s important to be protected before the winter spikes start.

Dr Mary Ramsay, Director of Immunization at the UK Health Agency, said:

“The latest data is in line with the pattern we predicted, with a tough winter expected.

This year, we want people to think that COVID-19 and flu are equally important – and both vaccines will provide a ‘boost’ this winter. Protection from the COVID-19 vaccine declines over time, and boosting immunity will help provide better protection against new variants.

So far, we have seen millions of people receive vaccines, especially the older age groups who are still at risk of severe illness and death from both diseases. Having both vaccines will help protect you and the health service so we can continue to treat patients with other conditions.

I encourage everyone who is eligible to sign up for the vaccine as soon as possible and don’t delay – you could be exposed to the flu or COVID-19 tomorrow.

NHS Director of Vaccination and Screening Steve Russell said:

Thanks to the efforts of staff, the NHS Autumn Vaccination Program has immunized twice as many people as at this stage last year, and almost 10 million people have already received their COVID-19 boosters.

We are seeing evidence of increased rates of COVID and influenza in the community and nursing homes, so ahead of what will be a very challenging winter, it is vital that everyone who is eligible is protected; It’s never been easier to get your vaccines, so make your appointment now.

Building on the success of the 2021-2022 COVID-19 vaccination campaign, this year’s campaign will highlight that the protection afforded by vaccines wanes over time, so everyone who is eligible should boost their immunity by getting both vaccines ahead of the harsh winter.

The ad uses blue (flu) and yellow (COVID-19) halos to represent the protection provided by both vaccines. They will appear on television, video on demand, radio, social and digital channels. Accurate, attractive information on digital channels will help to re-emphasize the importance of strengthening immunity ahead of the harsh winter by booking shots early.

The NHS Winter Vaccines chatbot will be back, helping to guide those looking for the information they need online. This instant online chat tool was first developed to support last winter’s campaign and answers frequently asked questions with reliable NHS information in one place.

Multicultural community outreach will allow the campaign’s ambassador teams to engage with diverse ethnic groups that tend to be more hesitant about vaccines. It will take place across the country in crowded places of worship and nearby public institutions. Special radio ads and unique social media content will reinforce key messages.

About 33 million people are eligible for the flu vaccine and 26 million people are eligible for the COVID-19 booster.