Coronavirus Information


Novel Coronavirus Update

NHS flu and covid vaccine programmes brought forward due to risk of new covid variant

Millions of eligible people will now be offered a covid vaccine from 11 September, in line with the latest expert guidance on the new covid variant.

This change follows an announcement by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) on the risks presented by the new BA.2.86 variant and pre-emptive measures the NHS has been asked to take.

The adult covid and flu vaccination programmes had been due to start in October to maximise protection over the winter months, but now those most at risk including adult care home residents will be vaccinated from 11 September.

The NHS has been asked to bring the programme forward and will be working quickly to ensure as many eligible people as possible are vaccinated by the end of October.

Residents of older adult care homes and those most at risk including those who are immunosuppressed will receive their covid vaccine first.

Carers, pregnant women, and health and social care staff will all be among the groups to be offered a covid jab this winter, as well as adults aged 65 and over.

Eligible people should wait to receive an invite from their local provider.

From 18 September, the NHS will start to invite people in priority order of risk and those eligible will be able to book an appointment on the National Booking Service.

The NHS winter flu and COVID-19 vaccination programme provides vital protection to those eligible and their families over winter, keeping people from developing serious illnesses, and helping to minimise hospitalisations during busy winter months.

Following the JCVI’s recommendation that adults over the age of 65 and those with underlying health conditions would be eligible for a flu and COVID-19 vaccination this year, the offer was due to start from early October to maximise protection for patients right across the winter months.

Now with the increased risks presented by the COVID-19 variant BA.2.86, vaccine sites can vaccinate those eligible for both flu and covid from 11 September.



Professor Sir Stephen Powis, NHS England Medical Director, said: “Vaccinations are our best defence against flu and COVID-19 ahead of what could be a very challenging winter, and with the potential for this new covid variant to increase the risk of infection, we are following the latest expert guidance and bringing the covid vaccination programme forward, with people able to get their flu vaccine at the same time to maximise protection.

“The NHS will work quickly to offer people protection against these nasty viruses as soon as possible, first going into adult care homes and inviting those most at risk including those with weakened immune systems.

“So please come forward to get your protection against both covid and flu as soon as possible once invited – it will help protect you and those around you this winter.”

Steve Russell, NHS England Chief Delivery Officer and National Director for Vaccinations said: “Every year NHS staff pull out all the stops to ensure those at greatest risk are vaccinated and protected against winter viruses.

“While we know that flu and covid usually hit hardest in December and January, the new covid variant presents a greater risk now, which is why we will be ensuring as many people as possible are vaccinated against covid sooner – and to support the fast-tracked delivery, vaccine providers will be given additional payments for delivering covid vaccines before the end of October. It’s vital you come forward when it’s your turn.”

Chief Executive of the UK Health Security Agency, Dame Jenny Harries said: “As we continue to live with COVID-19 we expect to see new variants emerge.

“Thanks to the success of our vaccine programme, we have built strong, broad immune defences against new variants throughout the population. However, some people remain more vulnerable to severe illness from COVID-19. This precautionary measure to bring forward the autumn programme will ensure these people have protection against any potential wave this winter.

“There is limited information available at present on BA.2.86 so the potential impact of this particular variant is difficult to estimate. As with all emergent and circulating COVID-19 variants – both in the UK and internationally – we will continue to monitor BA.2.86 and to advise government and the public as we learn more. In the meantime, please come forward for the vaccine when you are called.”

Last year, the NHS carried out its second biggest ever flu vaccination campaign, with more than 21 million flu vaccinations given to adults and children, while more than 17 million COVID-19 jabs were delivered last winter. As part of this, 10 million flu vaccinations and 8 million covid-19 vaccinations were in the month of October, making it by far the most popular month.

In total, more than 149 million covid-19 vaccinations have now been given by healthcare staff and volunteers since the NHS delivered the world’s first COVID-19  jab outside of clinical trials to Maggie Keenan, in December 2020.

But it is important that those eligible this year come forward for their vaccinations as protection fades over time, and the virus that causes flu can change from year to year.

As in previous years, the NHS will let people know when bookings open. Adult flu and COVID-19 appointments will be available through the NHS App and website, or by calling 119 for those who can’t get online. Flu vaccines will also be available through local GP practices and pharmacies.

There will be no change to flu vaccinations for children which will be offered in schools from early next month, to prevent children from getting seriously ill from flu and ending up hospital, and to break the chain of transmission of the virus to the wider population.

The nasal flu vaccine is the most effective vaccine for children aged 2-17 years but if this is not suitable the GP or practice nurse may be able to offer a flu vaccine injection as an alternative.

Health and social care workers will be invited for their vaccines through their employer.

In line with advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, those eligible for a flu vaccine this year include:

  • those aged 65 years and over
  • those aged 6 months to under 65 years in clinical risk groups 
  • pregnant women
  • all children aged 2 or 3 years on 31 August 2023
  • school-aged children (from Reception to Year 11)
  • those in long-stay residential care homes
  • carers in receipt of carer’s allowance, or those who are the main carer of an elderly or disabled person
  • close contacts of immunocompromised individuals
  • frontline workers in a social care setting without an employer led occupational health scheme including those working for a registered residential care or nursing home, registered domiciliary care providers, voluntary managed hospice providers and those that are employed by those who receive direct payments (personal budgets) or Personal Health budgets, such as Personal Assistants

Those eligible for an autumn covid vaccine are:

  • residents in a care home for older adults
  • all adults aged 65 years and over
  • persons aged 6 months to 64 years in a clinical risk group, 
  • frontline health and social care workers
  • persons aged 12 to 64 years who are household contacts (as defined in the Green Book) of people with immunosuppression
  • persons aged 16 to 64 years who are carers (as defined in the Green Book) and staff working in care homes for older adults.

How to use a Pulse Oximeter at home

Why have I been told to use a pulse oximeter? 

You may have been told by your doctor to use a pulse oximeter because you are recovering from COVID-19, or because you are a patient who is at higher risk of suffering with COVID-19. Using a pulse oximeter is a good way of making sure your breathing levels aren't worsening.

What does a pulse oximeter do? 
It measures how fast your heart is beating as well as checking how well you are breathing, it does this by checking how much oxygen is in your blood. 

An ideal oxygen level is between 96% and 99% and an ideal heart rate is between 50 and 90 beats per minute (bpm).

The oxygen level may be lower in some people with lung conditions, even when they are feeling well. If you have an existing lung condition, please check with your doctor about what your readings should be. 

To view guidance in a language that isn't English, please click here. 

How to use a pulse oximeter

Follow these steps to make sure the pulse oximeter gives the correct reading:

  1. Remove any nail polish or false nails.
  2. Warm your hand.
  3. Make sure you have been resting for at least five minutes before taking the reading.
  4. Rest your hand on your chest at the level of your heart and hold it still.
  5. Switch the pulse oximeter on and place it on your finger. It works best on your middle or index finger of either hand, it should not be used on your ear.
  6. The reading takes time to steady. Keep the pulse oximeter in place for at least a minute, or longer if the reading keeps changing.
  7. Record the highest result once the reading has not changed for five seconds.
  8. Be careful to identify which reading is your heart rate and which is your oxygen level.

The best way to track your heart rate and oxygen level is by taking a reading three times a day at the same time every day and keeping a diary of each reading.

Download a measurement diary by clicking here.

If you are recovering from COVID-19 and need advice on self-isolation and treating COVID-19 symptoms, please visit the NHS website. 

The video below will take you through the steps of how to use your pulse oximeter: 


 What to do if you experience any of the following symptoms

Attend your nearest A&E or call 999 immediately if you have one or more of the following symptoms and tell the operator you may have coronavirus:

  • You are unable to complete short sentences when at rest due to breathlessness
  • Your breathing suddenly worsens within an hour
  • Your blood oxygen level is 92% or less. Check your blood oxygen level again straight away – if it’s still 92% or below, go to A&E immediately or call 999

OR if these more general signs of illness worsen:

  • you are coughing up blood
  • you feel cold and sweaty with pale or blotchy skin
  • you develop a rash that does not fade when you roll a drinking glass over it
  • you collapse or faint
  • you become agitated, confused or very drowsy
  • you have stopped peeing or are peeing much less than usual.

If you have your pulse oximeter, please give the oxygen saturation reading to the 999 operator when you speak to them.