Winter 2022 Guidance
As the UK enters another winter season, here's the latest updates to official government guidance, and advice from SRUK on what to consider in your work, and social environments.
*In Spring 2023, a booster dose of the COVID vaccine will be offered to people at the highest risk of severe illness from the virus. People aged 5 or over that are immunosuppressed are eligible for the booster, including those that are immunosuppressed due to treatment for conditions such as scleroderma. Find out more details below.
Autumn & Winter 2022 Vaccinations
If you have a weakened immune system, you can receive a further COVID-19 vaccination this autumn for extra protection.
The Importance of Getting Vaccinated
COVID-19 is still with us and is still making people very ill. If you have a weakened immune system due to a health condition or medical treatment, COVID-19 may affect you more seriously. Your protection from previous doses of the vaccine may now be lower and will continue to decline.
Even though you might not develop full immunity, even a limited response to a further dose should help to reduce your risk of being severely ill or admitted to hospital if you catch COVID-19.
Experts have advised that the threat from COVID-19 will be greatest over winter. Viruses like COVID-19 spread much more easily when we socialise indoors, so it’s important that you top up your protection with a seasonal booster dose.
For more information on the importance of getting vaccinated if you're eligible, you can watch this video: https://twitter.com/DHSCgovuk/...
To maximise protection against COVID over the winter, the NHS is now extending the offer of COVID boosters to people living within the same household as someone who is immunosuppressed. You are also now able to self-declare to receive a booster, meaning that if you’re immunosuppressed or sharing a household with someone that is, you’ll be able to get a booster if you can provide evidence that you’re vulnerable or living with a vulnerable person. The NHS also strongly recommend that pregnant women receive an autumn booster.
Find more information here on eligibility and how to book here: https://twitter.com/DHSCgovuk/...
How to get your next COVID-19 vaccination
You can have your autumn seasonal vaccine if it's been at least 3 months since you had your previous dose. If you have a weakened immune system, you can book online without waiting to be invited.
- To book online, visit www.nhs.uk/get-vaccination
- If you can’t book online, phone 119 free of charge, 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday or 8am to 4pm Saturday and Sunday. You can ask someone else to do this for you. If you need an interpreter, use text phone 18001 119 or the NHS British Sign Language interpreter service at signvideo.co.uk/nhs119
- Alternatively, you can find a walk-in vaccination site near you at www.nhs.uk/vaccine-walk-in. You don’t need to book an appointment with a walk-in site but please check before visiting that they can vaccinate you – not all sites vaccinate all age groups.
It’s not too late to get an earlier dose of the COVID-19 vaccine if you need one. If you’ve not had a 1st or 2nd dose of the COVID-19 vaccine yet, you should make sure you have both as soon as possible. If you have had a severely weakened immune system, you should get an additional third dose before you get any booster.
The new bivalent vaccine
Vaccines used to date were designed to target the original strain of COVID-19 and have remained effective at preventing severe illness, including against later variants such as Omicron.
Following the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation’s (JCVI) updated advice on a preference for a bivalent-led seasonal campaign, the NHS is the first healthcare system in the world to use the next generation, bivalent COVID-19 vaccine in our seasonal campaign, which targets both Omicron and the original strain.
For those eligible, getting vaccinated in good time ahead of winter when viruses circulate most is more important than the type of vaccine given.
All available vaccines, including bivalent vaccines, provide good protection against severe illness from COVID-19 and have been approved for use by the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). They’ve met the MHRA’s strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness.
Flu can be very dangerous and even life threatening for some, particularly people with certain health conditions. The flu vaccine is safe and effective, and it’s offered every year on the NHS to help protect people at risk of getting seriously ill from flu.
If you’re eligible, it’s important to get it every year because the viruses that cause flu change every year. This means the flu (and the vaccine) this year may be different from last year. It’s more important than ever to get the flu vaccine as fewer people will have built up natural immunity to it during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The best time to get vaccinated is in the autumn or early winter before flu starts spreading. COVID-19 vaccines and the flu vaccine can be given on the same day for people who are eligible for both. The NHS is making it easier to receive both of these seasonal vaccinations at the same time. However, if getting both vaccines together is not possible, you should get each vaccination as soon as you can for better protection ahead of winter, rather than waiting.
As the UK eases out of lockdown, it is understandable that many of you may be unsure about how to keep safe as the restrictions ease. Although the legal restrictions caused by COVID have ended, this virus has not gone away, therefore it is important to act sensibly and safely.
The autumn booster is strongly recommended for pregnant women, who are at higher risk of getting seriously ill with COVID. For more information, watch the Department of Health and Social Care's video with Dr Viki Male, an immunologist researching vaccines in pregnancy at Imperial College, who explains some of the data connected to COVID and pregnancy and encourages pregnant women to come forward for their autumn booster: https://twitter.com/DHSCgovuk/...
2023 Spring Boosters
Following new advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), a spring booster dose of the Covid vaccine will be offered to people at the highest risk of severe illness:
- Everyone aged 75 and over
- Residents in care homes for older adults
- Immunosuppressed people aged 5 and over.
This means that if you are living with scleroderma, and receiving immunosuppressive treatment for the condition, you will be eligible for the 2023 spring booster.
You can find out more information about the 2023 Spring Boosters here.
How to Keep Safe
The key to keeping safe is assessing your personal level of risk. This includes factors such as:
- Have you had both vaccines?
- Have you had any booster vaccinations, or third dose vaccinations you may be eligible for?
- Are you considered clinically extremely vulnerable?
- Have you had, and recovered from COVID?
- What are the infection rates like in the area you live / travel to?
Not everyone’s level of risk is the same, so decisions on how to act now that lockdown is easing are very personal. Accepting both vaccinations as soon as you are able reduces your risk – for more information see our vaccines FAQ. If you have caught and recovered from COVID previously you will have built up a little more immunity to a repeat infection. We recommend keeping an eye on the infection rates in your area, and adjusting your behaviour based on the risk. For more detailed advice, please read this document ‘Making decisions about keeping safe after 19th July.’
Continuing to socially isolate from the 19th July is not essential, and in some cases may be more damaging to a persons mental and physical health, however caution should be exercised due to the high transmission rates of the delta variant of Covid-19. The key is making sure that you can meet up with other people more safely.
Shielding is no longer mandatory in any of the UK four nations.
Wearing a Mask
Do I still need to wear a mask? Wearing masks is currently mandatory in:
- Bars, restaurants, cafes, nightclubs
- Public transport
- Places of worship
- At work
- Indoor public places (excluding venues where food is served)
- Public transport
- Indoor public spaces (including venues where food is served, unless eating)
- Public transport
In addition private venues are able to enforce their own rules, therefore masks may be required by some businesses or transport providers. If wearing a mask in settings not listed here makes you feel more comfortable, you are welcome to continue wearing one - you won't be alone!
In response to the new COVID-19 variant those who are fully vaccinated will be asked to take daily lateral flow tests for 7 days following contact with someone who tests positive for COVID. Those who test positive must isolate until they have two negative lateral flow tests on consecutive days, with a minimum isolation period of 5 days.
From the 19th of July, all lockdown measures ended, meaning the legal requirement to social distance has ended. However, if you feel that you want to continue to socially distance and wear a face covering, these measures will lower your risk of catching and transmitting the virus.
This removal of restrictions also means that groups of any size can meet, indoors or outdoors. If you are feeling uncertain about your safety in a large group, or in an enclosed space, keep your social activities to a small group of friends and family. Take advantage of the UK summer and meet outside where possible, or in well ventilated indoor spaces. Making sure your social circle have had both their vaccines and received the second dose at least 14 days ago significantly reduces the risk of infection.
Currently, the advice across Wales, and Northern Ireland is to work from home where possible, to reduce the transmission of the Omicron variant. As this is guidance, working from home is not mandatory, however it is encouraged where possible. In Scotland, from the 31st January guidance urging people to work from home will be relaxed in favour of a hybrid model. In England, this guidance is no longer in place, meaning that employers can ask their employees to return to the workplace should they choose to.
Employers have a duty of care to keep their employees safe, therefore if you are at an increased risk of COVID, it is important to have a conversation about measures that can be taken to suit your needs.
People who are immune supressed, and/or entitled to a third primary dose of COVID-19 vaccine are still being advised to work from home.
“Work from home if you can. If you cannot work from home, speak to your employer about what temporary arrangements they can make to reduce your risk.” (Source)
If you wish to communicate this to your employer, SRUK have written a 'letter to employers' which outlines the continued risk of COVID to immunocompromised individuals, and how employers can keep their workforce safe. This letter is designed to be sent from any individual to their employer and can be downloaded using the button below.