Should I have the Flu Vaccine?

Each winter there is a flu epidemic that claims lives. Some years are worse than others, but each season hospitals and intensive care units around the country become filled with patients who are suffering complications of the flu.

We know that the elderly and patients with long term conditions are at increased risk of catching the flu and developing complications.

For this reason, from September through to January, we put a lot of resources into ensuring that patients at risk are vaccinated against the flu. There is no doubt that the vaccine saves lives.

Each year the flu virus changes slightly, so the flu vaccine needs to be given every year. About 80 out of 100 people who have the vaccine will be fully protected after the vaccine and the rest will have partial protection.

Who should get the vaccine?

There are slight changes each year to who can have the vaccine free of charge on the NHS, so check notices in the press and in the surgery (we normally send a personal invite to everyone we think should have the vaccine). However, last year the following were eligible:

  • Aged 65 or over
  • Aged 2-4 years
  • have a serious, long term medical conditions, for example:
                chronic lung problems (eg COPD, asthma)
                chronic heart problems (eg angina, congenital heart problems)
                chronic kidney or liver disease
                chronic neurological disease (eg stroke, Parkinson’s disease, MS)
                diabetes mellitus
                conditions that affect the immune system (eg HIV, chemotherapy, long term steroids)
  • live in a residential or nursing home
  • are the main carer for an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if you fall ill
  • a healthcare or social care professional directly involved in patient care (patients falling into this category need to get the flu vaccine from their employer or occupational health department)
  • work with poultry
  • Pregnant

Are there any complications?

Some people have a mild temperature or muscle aches for a few days after the vaccine. You may also be sore at the site of the injection. Serious side effects, such as allergic reactions are extremely rare

The vaccine does not contain any live viruses. You cannot catch the flu from it. It does not stop you from catching other, flu-like viruses or catching the flu before the vaccine is effective (it takes about 10 days to give protection.)

Patients with serious egg allergies should discuss having the flu with one of the doctors or nurses (there are egg free and low egg versions available).