THE annual flu vaccination programme is now underway across the Black Country and West Birmingham, with many GP practices and pharmacies offering the flu jab.

Those eligible, including people aged over 50, pregnant women, frontline health care staff and school age children, are all being offered the free vaccine in the run up to winter.

People in long-stay residential care homes and carers are also eligible, as well as close contacts of anyone who is immunocompromised.

Clinics will be run at various practices and pharmacies over the next couple of months, and will be on an appointment-only basis.

Tom Taylor, aged 85, who was among the first to be jabbed at Dudley Wood Surgery in Dudley last week, said: “It’s important that I get the flu jab as I’m at higher risk of getting unwell. I have my flu jab every year to help protect me and always feel fine afterwards.”

Also receiving his annual flu jab last week was 90-year-old Jack Hingley from Netherton, who was accompanied by his daughter Sue.

Sue, aged 67, said: “My dad gets his flu jab every year anyway and there’s never any problem, so he wanted to come and have it as soon as he could.

“There was really no question that he would have it again this year – I’ll also be having mine when I get my invite.”

The Covid-19 booster programme will run alongside the flu programme, and many clinics across the area will be offering both doses at the same time, where possible, to those eligible for both types of vaccination.

Sue added: “My dad got his booster jab today, alongside his flu jab, which is great. I think everyone who had their second dose of the vaccine over six months ago should get the booster jab as soon as they can to protect themselves.”

Amongst those receiving their Covid-19 booster jab was Brenda Holloway, aged 84, from Quarry Bank also received her booster dose at the clinic last week and said: “I came with my husband today so we could both get our booster jabs.

“We were one of the first few people to get the vaccine back in December, with our second dose in January. I’ve had the booster jab today to help me feel more protected, because of my age I have to be careful.”

Appointments for a Covid-19 booster dose can only be booked if it’s been at least six months since your second dose of the vaccine.

This means if you are already eligible for a flu jab you should have this jab as soon as you can and not put it off until your booster is also due.

Sally Roberts, chief nursing officer for Black Country and West Birmingham Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “It’s fantastic that the flu vaccination programme is now underway across the area.

“Due to the public health measures that were in place last year, there were lower levels of flu than there has been in previous years.

“That means our immunity levels to flu may be lower this year and more people are likely to catch it this winter.

“That’s why it’s really important that all those eligible for a flu jab come forward to help protect themselves and others from what can be a severe, and sometimes fatal, illness.

“The Covid-19 booster programme will also run alongside our flu vaccine programme and, wherever possible, those eligible will be offered the booster and flu vaccines together.

“The vaccines are there to give protection to those most vulnerable and prevent them from getting seriously ill from these viruses, and so I’d encourage anyone who has received their invite for either vaccine to please get booked in as soon as possible. If you are offered both vaccines, it’s safe to

have them at the same time.”

People are asked not to contact their GP to arrange their booster and flu jabs. The NHS will be in touch when you become eligible and invite you to book an appointment.