Dozens of sites across England will provide flu and Covid vaccinations on Christmas Day, and hundreds more are to open on Christmas Eve, Boxing Day and the bank holiday on 27 December.
More than 100,000 slots for jabs have been made available, as the NHS urgently appealed for people to come forward to be vaccinated.
Data published on Thursday showed there was a daily average of 1,939 flu cases in England’s hospitals in the week ending 18 December, up from 1,162 in the previous week. The daily average number of flu patients in intensive care also increased to 149 from 87.
By comparison, in the same week in 2021, the health service only had a daily average of two flu patients a day in critical care and 32 in general and acute beds. Meanwhile, the total number of Covid hospital admissions for the seven days to 19 December was more than a third (36%) higher than the previous week.
Steve Russell, the NHS England director of vaccinations and screening, said: “If you are yet to come forward for a flu vaccine or Covid booster this winter for any reason, then you can still come forward over Christmas, because like many NHS services the vaccination programme will still be operating and offering life-saving protection.
“It remains the best way to protect yourself from serious illness and hospitalisation as we head into the new year with rising infection rates and hospitalisations and increased pressure on our urgent and emergency services.”
Those eligible to make an appointment via the national booking system include people aged 50 and over, frontline health and social care workers, and those deemed to be at risk.
Almost 20 million people have received a flu vaccination, while more than 17 million have had a Covid booster jab since the NHS campaign began in autumn.
Experts have warned that health and social care workers and unpaid carers are at particular risk from catching flu and Covid, as well as then passing it on to the people they care for.
People who feel unwell have been told to stay at home rather than mingling with others during the festive season.
According to the UK Health Security Agency, overall hospital admission rates for Covid hit an average of 9.56 for every 100,000 people in England in the week ending 18 December, up from 6.61 in the week before, with the figure reaching 15.21 in the south-west of England.
Meanwhile, hospital and intensive care admission rates for flu both increased, with the hospital admission rate rising to an average of 8.27 for every 100,000 people in the week ending 18 December, compared with 6.80 in the week before.