Vaccine push critical, says Dr. Mukesh Chugh, as he urges ‘flu and booster uptake

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Dr. Mukesh Chugh, a Consultant Anaesthetist at Altnagelvin, has urged people not to hesitate to get their COVID-19 booster and ‘flu vaccine this winter.

The medic was part of a mobile team of health workers that started delivering boosters in care homes last week.

Dr. Chugh, who is also a community volunteer, said: “All the scientific studies show that after people get their second dose the protection might fade away after a few months for more vulnerable groups so the idea was to deliver a booster vaccine.”

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Initially, in line with Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advice, the most vulnerable will be targeted.

“All the people in care homes and front line workers have already passed six months and will be attended by mobile teams,” said Dr. Chugh.

From September 29 to October 24 vaccine teams are due to visit over 60 care homes within the Trust area, with Supported Living facilities and homeless clinics to follow.

GPs, meanwhile, will contact adults over 50, people aged 16-49 with underlying conditions, or people who are in contact with immunocompromised citizens. They will be given a single dose of the Pfizer jab or in some cases a half-dose of Moderna.

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Dr. Chugh was keen to encourage people who still have not received their first or second doses to come forward.

“A message we want to convey loud and clear to the general public is that vaccinations are helping. I can tell you that the people who are admitted to the hospital, you can see a difference between the people who got the vaccine and people who did not get the vaccine.

“The course of the disease between the two groups is dramatic. There is a big difference. People who got the vaccine may get the disease but not at the same serious level as the people who are not vaccinated.”

Dr. Chugh was equally keen to stress the importance of the influenza vaccine this year.

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“It seems we will be heading towards a busy winter as last winter, because of social distancing, masks and restricted travel, ‘flu was not as bad. This winter modelling suggests ‘flu could be 50 per cent larger and could begin earlier.”