People aged 65 or over and those of any age with underlying health problems should ring their doctor’s surgery to make an appointment for the flu jab. Parents of children and young people with underlying health problems also need to ensure that their child is protected against the virus. If a District Nurse already visits you at home you can ask them if they can give you the flu jab.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who is at risk from flu?
Anyone can get flu but it is more serious for people aged 65 years and over, and people of any age with a chronic medical condition, particularly chronic respiratory and cardiac disease.
Young children have a greater risk of being infected because they will not have had the opportunity to develop immunity to the virus.
Isn’t flu just a heavy cold?
Catching flu is an unpleasant experience for most people. Flu is a much more serious illness than a heavy cold although people often get mixed up and think they have the flu when in fact they have a heavy cold. In older and more vulnerable people the flu can lead to more serious illnesses like bronchitis and pneumonia, which may need hospital treatment. A number of mainly older people die from influenza every winter.
Who needs a flu vaccine?
You need a flu vaccination if you have any of the following conditions and are aged 6 months or over:
- Chronic respiratory disease, including asthma (requiring repeated steroids or hospital admission)
- Chronic heart disease
- Chronic renal disease
- Chronic liver disease
- Diabetes requiring insulin or oral hypoglycaemic drugs
- You are aged 65 or over
- You live in long-stay residential homes
- You are in receipt of a carer's allowance, or are the main carer for an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if the carer falls ill, at the GP's discretion
- You are a frontline healthcare worker or social service staff involved in the delivery of care and/or support to patients
- Social service employers have also been asked to consider offering immunisation to all staff involved in the delivery of care and/or support to clients
Why is a flu vaccine needed every year?
The virus is constantly changing. A new vaccine is developed every year to protect against the new subtypes likely to be circulating that winter.
Wouldn't it be better to vaccinate everybody who wants it?
For the majority of people flu is not life-threatening, however unpleasant it may be. A bout of flu offers long term protection against the same and closely related strains of influenza. It is the 'at risk' groups who benefit most from vaccination. Calculated numbers of vaccine doses are available to supply the high-risk groups - the vaccine should therefore be targeted at those most in need and for whom it will be most effective.
How is the vaccine made?
The viruses for the vaccine are grown in eggs, then killed and purified before being made into the vaccine. The vaccine is not live and cannot give you the flu.
How does the vaccine work?
About seven to ten days after vaccination, your body makes antibodies that help to protect you against any similar viruses that may infect you. This protection lasts for about a year.
How effective is the vaccine?
Flu vaccinations are 70-80% effective in healthy adults, in years when there is a good match between the vaccine and the strains of flu in circulation. In recent years we have been getting better at predicting the strains which are likely to circulate, and in most years there is now a good match between the vaccine and the circulating strains. If you do catch flu it is likely to be milder than if you had not been vaccinated.
Does the vaccine have any side effects?
Flu vaccines are very safe. They may cause some soreness where you were injected and, less often, a slight temperature and aching muscles for a couple of days.
Can the vaccine cause flu?
No. The vaccine cannot cause flu because it doesn't contain live virus.
Is there anyone who should not be vaccinated?
You should not be vaccinated if you have a serious allergy to hens' eggs.There is no evidence that influenza vaccine prepared from inactivated virus causes damage to the foetus. However, it should not be given during pregnancy unless there is a specific indication.
When is the best time to be vaccinated?
The best time to be vaccinated is between late September and early November, ready for the winter. You shouldn't wait until there is a flu epidemic.
How do I go about getting vaccinated?
If you think you need a flu vaccination, check with your doctor or the practice nurse - or if a nurse visits you regularly, ask them. Try to do so as early in the autumn as possible. Most doctors organise special vaccination sessions in the autumn and will arrange an appointment for you then.