Letters: Questions About the Winter Vaccination Programme

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Dear Orkney News,

My husband was called for what he thought was going to be a Covid plus ‘Flu vaccination.

When he arrived at the hospital he was told that he’s only eligible for the ‘Flu jab.

This was a big surprise, as we both were under the impression that the Winter vaccination programme now meant Covid and ‘Flu as a standard precaution /preventative measure.

We are fortunate in that my husband has recently retired from work, and we hardly go out among people since Covid originally arrived – so he shouldn’t be greatly at risk.

I am definitely eligible and have had a letter giving me an appointment.  I have asthma and particularly need to avoid respiratory infections, such as Covid, if at all possible.  It’s also important for my husband to avoid Covid as he could bring it home to me.  My vaccination should help but – both of us being vaccinated would be a much more thorough approach.

But it’s not just us – we’re thinking of all the people who aren’t considered to be eligible for a Covid jab now, yet will have to go to work, carry on with their lives, and – risk it.

The vaccination programme has been shown to have been very effective in helping to control Covid and in reducing the severity of symptoms.

We’ll check if he can pay to have a Covid jab, and if so, he will.  Never would have thought we’d be driven to ‘go Private’ – it’s against all our principles – but ’needs must’.

Many people will not be in a position financially to do so, or won’t think it’s ‘worth it’.  We very much do think it’s worth it – having experienced ill-health has taught us that health is one of the main things that matters in life.

This situation adds to the uncertainty which the population of Britain are having to live with already in these times.  Much is said of mental health and anxiety – being told you can’t have a Covid jab – doesn’t help.

Preventative medicine is understood to be worthwhile in many cases – we receive our ‘Poo sticks’, women are called for Cervical Smear tests, etc. etc. For that matter, folk are very strongly advised to get their ‘Flu jabs.

So why not Covid?  Could it be because it’s more convenient for the Government  to pretend it’s gone away?

Yours, Bernie Bell, Orkney

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8 replies »

  1. Further information re. vaccination eligibility….

    From email inviting Mike to attend the vaccination clinic:

    “You may be eligible for both the flu and the COVID-19 vaccines, or only the flu vaccine.”

    The email provides a web link with further information:

    “Information about the Flu & COVID19 vaccines can be found at https://www.nhsinform.scot/wintervaccines

    From that web page:

    “Flu and coronavirus vaccines will be offered to those eligible between September and December. It’s strongly recommended you get vaccinated if you’re eligible this winter.”

    The bottom of the web page also provides a ‘guide’, which is a set of questions to determine which vaccines you are eligible for.

    The following web page provide information on the eligible groups decided for this winter’s Covid booster:



    If the majority of the population of Britain are no longer eligible to receive a Covid vaccination – that opens the door to increased infection rates – increased hospital admissions and increased pressure on the already stretched NHS.

    Why is this happening?

  2. And yet more information….

    Mike tried to find out if the Covid jab is available other than through the NHS. He ‘Googled’….

    “Can I pay for a COVID-19 vaccine privately or at a pharmacy?”

    And ……

    “The COVID-19 vaccination is only available through the NHS to eligible groups and it is a free vaccination.

    From: https://www.premiermedicalcentre.nhs.uk/covid-vaccine#:~:text=Can%20I%20pay%20for%20a,it%20is%20a%20free%20vaccination.”



    So he, and thousands of others, will have to just be even more careful and stay calm in an increasingly uncertain, unbalanced world.

    Britain is stepping back in time – I’m thinking of when a person might, or might not, catch Smallpox any time they went among people. Until a vaccine was developed.

  3. My heart goes out to you… many will be in a similar position.

    In my personal opinion it is short-sighted when a cash-strapped goverment and a health service in the same position narrow the eligibility criteria for the vaccine so significantly that it resembles a triage on a battlefield.
    It is unlikely that this will in any way make life much easier for the NHS this winter.

    And I clearly fail to see the logic behind the offer of just a flu jab for your husband. According to this https://www.publichealthscotland.scot/our-areas-of-work/immunisations/seasonal-immunisations/winter-vaccinations/eligible-groups/ your husband might either fall into the category “carers aged 16 and over” and/or the category “aged 12 and over who are household contacts of people with a weakened immune system”.
    Since you have apparently been identified as someone with a weakened immune system (otherwise you would not have received the invitation for Covid & flu jabs), he is clearly one of those hoursehold contacts who should get the vaccine.

    With this in mind, I believe you should approach your GP again. They might re-consider.

    As a last resort, there might be another option. It is unlikely that the by the manufacturers promised single dose vials (which are expected to be rolled out in other countries soon) will be available in the UK which – presumably, from what I’ve heard so far – also might initially use existing and pre-ordered stock of the BA.4-5 vaccines instead of the XBB vaccine the WHO recommends. Whether the latter will turn out to be positive or negative, time will tell.

    But anyway, when vaccinators organise vaccinations (in the absence of single dose vials), they try to invite a certain amount of people to avoid any doses going to waste. But inevitably there are always no-shows, people who were invited but didn’t turn up. Those surplus doses should be used instead of being discarded. Clever timing of the appointment (as late as possible on the day) and having Mike tag along to the appointment might give him the chance to get the vaccine.

    I fully agree that this is not ideal, that it is a disgrace when one has actively search solutions for a problem which shouldn’t exist in the first place.
    And yes, despite the inevitable inequality issue, I am very much in favour for additional options to get this (as well as any other) vaccine on a private basis. Simply for the reason that ANY infection which is either prevented and/or mitigated in its severity benefits society and the NHS as a whole.

    Some might say these are stark words from someone who only declined this morning an offer from the local GP practice to come forward for the flu vaccine. A vaccine that I even paid privately for over several years when I was not eligible. However, since I’ve been in strictest shielding since March 2020 and can still avoid all contacts, it is unlikely that the flu would “find” me unless it flies in through an open window…

    Good luck to you Bernie, keeping fingers crossed for you!

  4. Thank you for your good wishes – genuinely – thank you.

    Funnily enough – I refuse the ‘flu jab too. I have what a doctor described as ‘a very re-active system’, and the ‘flu jab always made me unwell for a few days. The Covid jab makes me unwell for well over a week ( I think it’s worth it). So, when offered both, I decline the ‘flu jab, as both together would be likely to make me quite unwell.
    I could probably deal with a dose of ‘flu – used to before the vaccinations became available – but not so likely to deal with Covid.

    I get fed up enough with being generally unwell – avoid anything I can which will set me off feeling worse – and so – decline the combined Covid and ‘flu jabs.

    I should make it clear that I am over 65, so eligible anyway – but asthma makes it imperative that I try not to catch respiratory infections.

    It does seem unlikely that the Government will change the criteria back again – but we are hoping that the pharmaceutical companies might see their chance of a profit and offer the vaccine through pharmacies.

    What has it come to when I’m even writing that?

  5. PS

    I didn’t want to go off into a list of my ailments – but, in the interest of clarity, I’ll mention that I have what has been diagnosed as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

    If – God forbid, I caught Covid, then was left with Long Covid on top of CFS – where would I be? Where would Mike be – having to look after me even more than he does?

    And this situation, with variations, probably applies to a lot of people.

    Vaccination could help.

  6. Vaccination could in this case definitely help, vaccination for you AND your partner would be beneficial. In some European countries, eligibility criteria have also narrowed (not as much as in UK though)… however, GPs and other medical professionals can use their clinical judgement and vaccinate outside those narrow boundaries based upon their clinical judgement. The same applies to many treatments etc. for other conditions.
    Something like this is long overdue in the UK…

    • Thanks again for taking an interest. Mike has an appointment to see the doctor in early October (he has his own health issues!) and intends to explain the situation and see if it would be possible for him to get a Covid vaccination.

      A Family doctor used to know the family – today we see different doctors, who do their best in a difficult situation, but I’m not sure if they have time to consider how much the connections between people can affect their state of health/state of mind.

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