The Flu Virus
Flu is an unpleasant illness and unpredictable virus. It can cause a mild to nasty illness although if you are otherwise healthy, it usually clears up on its own within a week or two. Contracting flu can be more severe for certain groups people as it is highly infectious. If people in these ‘at risk’ groups were to contract flu, they may develop potentially serious complications such as pneumonia (a lung infection) and bronchitis (an inflammation of the airways in the lungs). In the worst cases it could result in death. More information on the flu virus can be obtained from the following web pages:
The flu vaccination is available for free every year to people in these at-risk groups. It is recommended that people in these groups have a flu vaccination every year to help protect them against flu. The vaccination helps to protect adults and children who are at risk of flu and the complications that come with it. Studies have shown that the flu vaccine will help prevent you getting flu and is effective within two weeks of it being administered. However, it won’t stop every possible type of flu virus because there are so many strains, so it’s not a 100% guarantee that you won’t get it – however, if you are unfortunate to catch flu after you’ve had the vaccine, the vaccine will make your episode milder and shorter-lived. There is also evidence to suggest that having the flu vaccine reduces your risk of having a stroke.
The Flu Vaccination
The flu vaccination is offered free of charge to the following at-risk groups and other eligible people:
- Anyone aged 65 and over
- Pregnant women
- Children and adults with an underlying health condition or weakened immune systems
- People living in a long stay residential care home or other long stay care facility
- Persons receiving carer’s allowance
- Main carers for elderly or disabled people whose welfare may be at risk if the carer falls ill
- More information about the flu vaccine for carers is available on the Carers UK website
Please see further down the page for more information on who is eligible for the flu vaccination.
*Frontline health and social care workers are also eligible to receive the flu vaccine. Due to the environment that they work in, these people are also at risk and similarly, the staff / patients / residents they work with are at risk of infection if these workers contract flu. There is further information available about the flu vaccination for these workers in this leaflet.
Protection by the flu vaccine decreases over time and flu strains often change (this year’s flu will be different to last year’s flu), therefore new vaccines are produced every year to adapt to these changes. This is also why people are advised to have the flu vaccination every year. Each year, the viruses most likely to cause flu are identified and the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends which type of flu virus strains to include in the vaccine. There are three different types of flu vaccine for 2018:
- A live ‘quadrivalent’ nasal spray vaccine (protecting against four strains of flu) for children and young people aged between two and 17
- A quadrivalent injected vaccine for children six months and above, in an eligible group, who cannot receive the live vaccine; and adults aged 18 and over but younger than 65.
- An adjuvanted injected vaccine for people aged 65 and over
More information about how the flu vaccine works, changes and the types of flu virus is available here.
Serious side effects from the injected vaccine are rare although you may have a mild fever and aching muscles for a couple of days after having the vaccine and your arm may be sore where you were injected. Side effects of the nasal vaccine may include a runny or blocked nose, headache, tiredness and some loss of appetite. The flu vaccines used in the national programme have a good safety record.
Who is eligible for the Flu vaccination?
A number of different groups of adults are eligible for the flu vaccine:
- Born on or before 31/03/54 (so if you are currently 64 but will be 65 on 31/03/19, you do qualify). Further information for patients in this group is available through this document.
- Pregnant women : there is strong evidence that pregnant women increase the risk of developing complications if they get flu during pregnancy, such as pneumonia, miscarriage and your baby having a low birth weight
- it will also help to protect your baby following birth as they retain some immunity to flu during the first few months of their life
- it is safe to have the flu vaccine at any stage of pregnancy from conception onwards
- further information about the flu jab in pregnancy can be obtained through this link
Certain groups of children are eligible for a flu vaccine:
- Over the age of six months with a long-term health condition
- Born between 01/09/14 and 31/08/16
- In YR, Y1, Y2, Y3, Y4 and Y5 at school
Children aged between six months and two will receive an injected vaccine whilst children aged between two and 17 will usually have the nasal spray vaccine.
Further information about the flu vaccine for children is available here.
People with underlying health conditions
The flu vaccine is available for free to anyone with a serious long term health condition. The list of conditions that make someone eligible for the vaccine is not definitive and is always an issue of clinical judgement. The GP can assess whether having the vaccine will exacerbate this condition or whether contracting flu would put you at risk of serious illness, even if you do not fall into one of the ‘at-risk’ groups. If you are unsure whether or not you would be suitable for the flu vaccine, please speak to your GP. Health conditions that may warrant the need for a flu vaccine are:
- Asthma, COPD, emphysema, bronchitis, CHD, CKD, hepatitis, Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, MS, diabetes, sickle cell, weakened immune system and having a BMI of 40 and over
More information about who should have the flu vaccine is available here. Most adults can have the flu vaccine but it should be avoided if you have had a serious allergic reaction to a flu vaccine in the past. More information about who shouldn’t have the flu vaccine is available here.
Flu vaccinations at Bedworth Health Centre
Bedworth Health Centre is pleased to be able to offer the flu vaccination. The best time to have a flu vaccine is in mid to late autumn, therefore our flu vaccinations will commence from Thursday 27th September for patients aged under 18 and Monday 1st October for patients aged 18 and above. Please call the surgery on 02476 315432 (Option 1 – Appointments), come and speak to a Receptionist in person or access our GP Online Services provision to make your appointment. If you are not sure whether or not you are eligible for a flu vaccination, please call the above number (Option 5 – Administration) to check.
A large amount of this information has been taken from the NHS choices website, more information about the flu vaccine can be found at that website here. This website also has further information about flu itself.