NHS Information regarding flu vaccinations
The above is an excellent link to the nature of flu, self-limiting course in healthy adults (fever,aching muscles and joints) but contagious nature and potentially much more serious in certain vulnerable groups.e.g. pneumonia and chest infections.
Complications of flu mostly affect people in high-risk groups such as the elderly, pregnant women and those who have a long-term medical condition or weakened immune system.
A course of antibiotics usually cures a chest infection or pneumonia, but it can very occasionally become life-threatening, particularly in the frail and elderly.
Other serious complications are uncommon.
The flu vaccine
Studies have shown that having a flu jab provides effective protection against the flu. However, the level of protection may vary between individuals and decreases over time, and also with change in the strain. Hence people who are at risk of flu are encouraged to be vaccinated every year.
Serious side effects of the flu vaccine are very rare. You may have a slight temperature and aching muscles for a couple of days after having the flu jab, and your arm may be a bit sore where you were injected.
The best time to have a flu vaccine is in the autumn, from September to early November, before any flu outbreaks occur.
The vaccine contains substances similar to parts ofsome of the flu viruses so that your body will recognise the virus more easily and protect you. There are lots of flu viruses out there and the ones that you are immunised with are some of those predicted to cause outbreaks this winter .
Frequently asked questions
When am I most at risk from flu?
Flu circulates every winter, usually over a few weeks. Therefore, many people get ill around the same time. In a bad year, this can be an epidemic. However, it is impossible to predict how much flu there will be any year.
Can I go to work or school if I have been in contact with somebody who has recently been diagnosed with flu?
Yes. You should go about your everyday business, but stay at home if you develop flu-like symptoms.
Does everyone need a flu jab?
Ask your GP about having a flu vaccination if:
- you’re 65 or over
- you’re pregnant
- you have a serious medical condition
- you live in a residential or nursing home
- you’re the main carer for an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if you fall ill
- you or your child (over six months) is in a risk group
You should also be offered the flu vaccination if you are a healthcare or social care worker directly involved in patient care.
Find out more about who should have the flu vaccine.
Why are certain groups targeted for the flu jab?
Complications such as bronchitis and pneumonia are more common in people with other diseases, especially if they are also elderly. Almost all of the deaths related to flu are in people in these groups.
In long-stay residential homes, vaccination prevents the rapid spread of flu among residents.
Can a GP vaccinate anyone else?
The final decision about who should be offered the vaccination is a matter for the patient’s GP, based on the person’s medical history.
Is my child entitled to the flu vaccine?
If your child is over six months old and is in a high-risk group for flu, they should have the seasonal flu vaccine. The number of doses needed varies with age and whether your child has had the flu vaccine before.
Find out more about who should have the flu vaccine.
How long will the jab protect me for?
The flu jab will provide protection for you for the upcoming flu season.
How long does the flu vaccine take to become effective?
The vaccine causes your body’s immune system to make antibodies to the flu virus.
Antibodies are proteins that recognise and fight off germs that have invaded your blood, such as viruses. If you catch the flu virus later on, the immune system will recognise it and immediately produce the antibodies to fight it.
It may take 10-14 days for your immune system to respond fully after you have had the flu injection.
If I had the flu jab last year, do I need it again now?
Yes. The viruses that cause flu can change every year, which means the flu (and the vaccine) this winter may be different from last winter.
Can the flu jab cause flu?
No. The vaccine does not contain any live viruses, so it cannot cause flu. Some people get a slight temperature and aching muscles for a couple of days afterwards, and your arm may feel a bit sore where you had the injection. Other reactions are rare and flu jabs are very safe.
When is the best time to get my flu jab?
The best time is as soon as your GP gets supplies of the vaccine. This will be between September and early November. Do not wait until winter, when the flu virus is circulating.
Is there anyone who cannot have a flu jab?
You should not have the flu vaccine if you have ever had an allergic reaction to a flu vaccine or one of its ingredients. This happens very rarely.
If you have had a confirmed serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to hens’ eggs, have an egg allergy with uncontrolled asthma or another type of allergy to egg, your GP may decide that you should be vaccinated with an egg-free vaccine. One such vaccine is available for this flu season (called Preflucel, manufactured by Baxter Healthcare).
If no egg-free vaccine is available, your GP will identify a suitable vaccine with a low egg (ovalbumin) content, the details of which can be found in the latest edition of chapter 19 of the Green Book (PDF, 666kb).
Depending on the severity of your egg allergy, your GP may refer you to a specialist for vaccination in hospital.
If you are ill with a fever, do not have your flu jab until you have recovered.
Can people get the flu vaccine privately?
People who aren’t in the at-risk groups can pay for a flu vaccination privately. The flu vaccine may be available from pharmacies or in supermarkets. It would be provided on a private patient basis and you would have to pay.
Why is it recommended that healthcare workers are vaccinated?
Vaccination prevents healthcare workers passing flu on to or getting flu from their patients. It also helps the NHS to keep running effectively during a flu outbreak, when GPs and hospital services are particularly busy.
Can I have a flu jab if I’m breastfeeding?
Yes. The vaccine poses no risk to a breastfeeding mother or her baby, or to pregnant women.
Is it OK to have the flu vaccine at any time during pregnancy?
Yes. The flu vaccine is safe to have in any stage of pregnancy, including in the first trimester and up to the expected due date. It helps protect the mother and also protects the baby from catching flu.
How do I get the flu vaccine if my GP has run out?
GPs have already been asked to check their stocks. If they have run out, they have been advised to work with neighbouring practices or the primary care trust to obtain further supplies. The vaccine manufacturers and suppliers still have stocks available for ordering.
Do I need Tamiflu and how do I get a prescription?
Your GP will decide if you need Tamiflu, and will prescribe it if necessary.
I have had flu symptoms for five days. Can I have visitors?
You are probably not infectious after five days and will be clear of flu by seven days.