TODAY The Sun launches a health campaign urging unvaccinated people to “Do The Double” and get Covid and flu jabs before the World Cup.
NHS bosses want to avoid a repeat of the coronavirus wave that followed last year’s Euros.
And yesterday two of England football’s biggest names — Gary Lineker and Sir Geoff Hurst — backed our Do The Double campaign. Millions of those eligible for jabs have not had them, with 13million in England due an Omicron Covid booster and 18million still due a flu vaccine.
Medics fear a virus “twindemic” could cripple hospitals this winter as they now face mass walkouts after the nurses’ strike vote.
Covid cases are falling, but experts predict a virus surge when fans start packing out pubs and living rooms to watch Gareth Southgate’s side take to the pitch in Qatar after the World Cup begins on November 20.
Match Of The Day host Gary, 61, who scored 48 goals for England, and World Cup winner Sir Geoff, 80, urged football fans to get jabbed.
Former striker Gary, Mexico ’86’s top goalscorer, told The Sun: “You can’t beat watching a World Cup with your friends and family, and no one wants that ruined by Covid.
“I’ve had my booster jabs and I’m getting my flu jab next week, and I urge anyone who is eligible to get theirs too.
“If you can, do the double. Come on, England!”
Sir Geoff, 80, whose hat-trick in the 1966 World Cup final saw England lift the trophy for the first and only time, said he backed our jabs push “one million per cent”.
He added: “I am surprised when people say they are not going to get a Covid jab.
“Everybody at every level, at every age, should have the jab when they are due.”
Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of NHS England, also called on Sun readers to get protected, whether they plan to watch at home or abroad.
England’s last major tournament, the Euros in 2021, saw Covid cases surge tenfold in a summer wave. Positive tests increased from 5,000 a day in the first week of June to 45,000 a day by July 15, just days after the Three Lions lost the final to Italy on penalties.
A government report later said England’s Euro fixtures had caused “spikes in cases across the country”.
The Department of Health said many people who tested positive had been “visiting bars, pubs, other households and eating out” on match days.
Mild Omicron means Covid is less dangerous now but those who are infected still face watching games from their sickbed if they are not protected.
Jabs will slash the risk of flu or Covid infection over winter but immunity can take weeks to kick in, with kick-off in Qatar in just nine days.
Dr Paul Hunter, medicine professor at the University of East Anglia, said: “It is important to get it done sooner rather than later.
“If you have a jab now it would be very unlikely that you get infected during the World Cup or over Christmas.
“The vaccines are now only being offered to more vulnerable and older people who might not have had Covid recently or have not had flu for two years.
“For them, going to watch football in a crowded pub is a big risk factor for catching a virus.” Around 33million people are eligible for a free flu vaccine and 26million can get an autumn Covid booster.
Even so, only about half of the shots have been taken up so far, with 15million flu jabs dished out and 13.9million Covid top-ups.
Figures show flu cases have risen in recent weeks and hospital flu admissions are above average from recent years.
Although the autumn Covid wave has started to shrink, with a nine per cent drop in cases last week, there are still 1.6million people infected with the virus, including 5,647 in hospital.
That’s why it makes sense for all of us — footie fans or not — to Do The Double.
HOW YOU CAN DO IT?
WHO is eligible for the vaccines?
NHS England says 33million people are eligible for a flu vaccine and 26million can get an autumn Covid booster.
Flu jabs and Covid boosters are both available for everyone aged over 50, under-50s with serious health conditions, pregnant women, care home residents, frontline health and care staff, carers and anyone living with a person with a weakened immune system.
Free flu vaccines are also on offer for children aged two to 11.
Anyone who has not had the first three Covid vaccines can book their next one at any time.
How do I book?
Online at nhs.uk, by phoning 119 for free or by contacting your local pharmacy or GP surgery.
Are they free?
Yes, both for eligible people. Those not eligible can pay for a flu jab from a high street pharmacy but it is not possible to buy a Covid-19 shot.
Can I have Covid and flu on the same day?
Yes, many NHS sites are offering to do that.
Studies have proven it is safe and effective to administer the two jabs together.
How long until I am protected?
It takes at least a week for a vaccine to work and up to three weeks for full protection. With the first game in Qatar just nine days away, sooner is better than later.
STRENGTHEN YOUR DEFENCE
By Amanda Pritchard, NHS Chief Executive
WE know the World Cup will bring the whole country together, with millions gathering in pubs and front rooms to cheer on Gareth Southgate and his team.
But we also know that crowds are what viruses like best, whether that is the common cold, flu or even Covid.
So the best possible defence will be vital – not just in Qatar but also here at home. If you are eligible for a Covid or flu vaccination this autumn, make sure you are going into the tournament match fit by topping up your protection.
With flu already circulating, and Covid never having gone away, there is a real threat of a “twindemic” in what could be one of the toughest winters the NHS has faced.
We are doing everything we can to prepare, including adding extra hospital beds, introducing a national falls service and rolling out data-driven “war rooms” to co-ordinate care and make sure every spare bed is put to good use.
We are also making it easier than ever for people to book Covid and flu jabs at more than 3,100 sites across the country, through the NHS website or by calling 119.
They can save your life and keep you out of hospital.
So don’t score an own goal this World Cup. Take a shot for England so you can enjoy the football – along with Christmas and the New Year.