Flu cases next season could rise to higher levels than before the Covid-19 pandemic, the Government’s annual flu letter has warned.

It said that flu levels were ‘extremely low’ globally in 2020 to 2021 thanks to Covid measures such as mask-wearing and reduced social interactions and travel and ‘continue to be low’.

But the 2022/23 flu letter, published today by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and NHS England, stressed that this may cease to be the case.

It said: ‘A late increase in activity cannot be ruled out this season. As social contact returns to pre-pandemic norms there is likely to be a resurgence in influenza activity in winter 2022 to 2023 to levels similar to or higher than before the pandemic.

‘The potential for co-circulation of influenza, Covid-19 and other respiratory viruses could add substantially to pressures in the NHS in 2022 to 2023, by addition, or by prolongation of the overall period for which respiratory viruses circulate in sequence.’

The letter added that the flu vaccine development process ‘has been far more difficult and potentially less precise since early 2020 due to far fewer influenza viruses isolated and analysed worldwide’.

It also confirmed that the annual flu vaccination campaign is to return to normal in England after two years of expanded cohorts.

This means secondary school pupils and those aged 50 to 64 will no longer be eligible for routine vaccination unless they fall into a clinical risk group.

Frontline health and social care workers are also still recommended for vaccination although this should be provided by employers.

This comes after the data from the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) showed this month that community pharmacies in England have administered 4.8 million flu vaccinations during the 2021/2022 flu season. 

A version of this article was originally published on The Pharmacist's sister publication Pulse.