In the UK, the NHS gives yearly flu vaccinations to many individuals in the country who are deemed as being in an ‘at risk group’. For those who fall outside of those parameters, and indeed for those in other countries, you can often get a flu jab in a local doctor’s surgery or chemist for a reasonable price. The question is, should you get one?

My (minimal) Experience

I was recommended the flu jab again this year and for the first time I’ve been giving it more serious consideration. Despite having health conditions and a perhaps weakened immune system, I don’t seem to catch colds and the flu more often than I would deem to be average. However, this year I’ve caught the flu quite seriously twice in the space of just a couple of months, once with a rather nasty chest infection. I don’t fall within the narrow margins the NHS sets when it comes to what they deem as being ‘at risk’, but like others I could pay around £10 in a local chemist.

What puts many off getting the vaccination are some of the stories, from patients and scientific bodies, reported in the media. For me, my mother getting the worst case of the flu she’d ever had after having the flu jab last year made us both question the vaccination a little. She blamed the jab, and you can see the logics behind it, but we’re still reassured, such as by the NHS, that the jab can’t/doesn’t give you the flu. Perhaps all those reporting such adverse effects are experiencing something either very rare, or coincidental.

Can You Get Ill From The Jab?

Experts claim you can’t get the flu from the jab; if you do, it’s a coincidence. But some people do report to get it quite badly. Is it worth that chance of yourself bed ridden with bad case of flu? Are there other potential risks and side-effects we don’t really get told about? According to the NHS you may get some muscle aches and a slight fever for a few days afterwards, which doesn’t sound so bad. It certainly doesn’t sound as though there are as many horror stories linked to the flu jab as other immunisation shots. As previously mentioned, health bodies recommending the vaccination are regularly reassuring us that it’s safe and worthwhile.

Does It Work?

Does it really prevent and protect you for the next year against catching the flu? Not necessarily. It will protect against the common strain(s) or at least from their effects being potentially severe. It won’t protect against all, and it will affect everyone differently. They also suggest that the success of the jab can be influenced by factors as unlikely as whether or not you smile, with the latest media stories suggesting that flashing your pearly whites and having a positive mood at the time will help improve your body’s defences.

Of course, the story is not too straight forward when asking the question of whether it works. There’s evidence for its success, but many findings and media criticism for its limited effectiveness in other cases (“While recent research shows that the current seasonal flu vaccine only has 3% protection against the main circulating strain – A(H3N2) – in adults, it can still protect against other strains.”)

The vaccination is there to help prevent an epidemic. It’s to prevent the prevalent strains of the flu for that year from seriously affecting your health, which, in some cases, could pose a life-threatening risk. Complications of the flu can range from pneumonia and bronchitis, to the worsening symptoms in those with chronic health conditions such as COPD.

With the record numbers of influenza being recorded in Australia this year, the so-called “Aussie Flu” is set to head to the UK with potentially disastrous effects. Perhaps now is a good time to seriously consider protecting yourself to whatever degree possible with a flu jab.

Who Is Entitled To The Free NHS Jab?

You are generally deemed to be in at “at risk” group and therefore entitled to a free NHS flu jab if you :

  • Are over 65 years old
  • Are pregnant
  • Live in a residential care home / long-term care facility
  • Are a main carer/in receipt of carer’s allowance for a disabled or elderly individual who may be at risk if you fall ill
  • Are a health/social care worker (your employer in this instance may fund and arrange the flu vaccination for you)
  • Have certain medical conditions, including :  Chronic kidney disease, chronic liver disease, chronic heart disease, neurological conditions like MS or Parkinson’s, respiratory diseases like COPD or asthma, have a compromised immune system (ie. due to AIDS/HIV, or steroid/chemotherapy treatments), BMI over 40, spleen disorders like sickle cell disease or if you’ve had your spleen removed.

Speak to your GP or pharmacist to discuss your health conditions and check your eligibility. Seek their opinion on the flu vaccination.

Should You?

The NHS is a strong supporter of the flu vaccination and warns against the belief that it’s a waste of time. It can literally be a life-saver for some. Getting the jab is a personal choice and you should arm yourself with the relevant information first, then speak to your GP or local chemist about getting one. If you are in an at risk-group, the vaccination seems hugely important. If you’re not, but feel you could benefit from it and would like the reassurance protection against flu complications, £10 is a small price to pay.

I would be interested to hear from anyone who has any experience of the flu jab – Did you have any adverse effects? Did you feel it helped keep away the dreaded flu bug and prevent potentially severe complications? Leave a comment below!

24 thoughts on “Flu Jab – Should You Be Getting One?”

  1. I got it when I was younger, when my two sisters got the flu. I was an asthma sufferer and young which allowed me to get it for free. I didn’t get sick from my sisters or the jab so *shrug*. Its your call really.

  2. I always used to turn down the flu jab for fear I’d get side effects, but after many chest infections (I know this may not be linked) and stints in hospital I decided to give it a go. I also had the pneumonia jab. I’ve never had any problems other than a heavy arm. And swear by it now! Had mine already this year.

    1. I feel the same, with the concern after having been ill (chest infection also) making me turn towards the jab. I’m glad it’s been a positive experience for you, and that you’re well prepared for this year too! 🙂

  3. I have ME/CFS and I always get the flu shot even though each time I am afraid it might make me feel worse. So far I have been o.k. And not gotten the flu for very many years. This last one this year did make me feel a bit bad for 2 or 3 days but I got better. Also got a pneumonia shot this year. Even though I am always very sick I think it is worth it because I don’t think I would survive a bout with the flu or pneumonia. I also take precautions when I go anywhere to be sure to wash up really well after coming home. I would recommend the shots and washing up always just in case the flu shot is less effective some years. Hope this helps.

    1. Good points about hygiene. I’m glad you haven’t had the flu since getting the jabs, and like you say, to prevent getting seriously ill it’s worth taking the precautions that are offered. Thanks for taking the time to share your experience Gloria 🙂

  4. The flu needle can’t give you flu because it doesn’t have a flu bug in it ! It’s not a live vaccine. It just contains a small part of a dead flu bug – just enough to trigger your immune system to produce antibodies against it. Then when you come in contact with the live bug, you already have antibodies ready & waiting to fight it.

    The vaccine doesn’t cover all flu bugs – usually only the 4 known most deadly strains of the season. So you can still get a different flu.

    Also it’s does not give 100% cover to everyone who is vaccinated. Depends on your own body how effective the vaccine is. It usually protects the majority of vaccinated people.

    Hubby & I, in our 70s have had annual flu shots every year for 15 years & haven’t had flu in all that time. Having been born at a time when kids still got Polio & Diptheria, we feel grateful to have this available

    1. Some very good points, and I’m also really pleased to hear you and your husband have had a positive experience with the vaccinations and no flu as a result since having them. Thanks for taking the time to comment Gillian 🙂

  5. If you don’t try…you won’t find out. I qualify for the free one as I have asthma, although that is so much better since I stopped smoking. However, the one and only time I had the flu jab (13 years old) I promptly caught flu and was revoltingly ill for ages…since then, I have never had the flu jab again and I have also never had flu…and I am sorry because this comment was probably no help whatsoever…! 😸 xx

    1. Oh dear, sounds like an experience similar to my mother (who now doesn’t want another flu jab as a result!) It’s definitely true that things work differently for different people, and without trying you won’t know. But it’s also interesting that you’ve not had the flu afterwards so I hope (touch wood!) you continue to be flu-free!! 🙂

  6. I’ve never had the job, touch wood I dont catch things that often, but watch this space for typing that I will now get ill. My boys get offered them at the Doctors but I have never taken them up as I have always worried about side effects and the jab doing the opposite of what’s intended. Know I could be sceptical though and as some posters have said £10 isnt a lot of money and it if saves you the flu, time off work etc, its worth it

    1. It’s definitely a bit of a hit and miss topic as many people have had positive experiences with no side-effects and no flu, which makes you think it just affects everyone a little differently and therefore you have to try it to find out. The choice is yours though and nobody can make it for you or pressure you, but if you’re otherwise healthy and fit and don’t tend to catch things too regularly then it’s understandable to be more hesitant at the prospect of getting one. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on it 🙂

  7. The yearly dilemma! I just don’t know. Didn’t have it last year and managed to avoid the flu (knock on wood), but with ME/CFS I am afraid I wouldn’t stand much of a chance if I did catch it. So many differing opinions.

    1. That always seems to be the problem; differing opinions, ‘facts’ that aren’t really ‘facts’ because scientific opinion changes, and these things affect everyone differently. Like you, however, with a body that doesn’t feel like it’ll hold up against something more serious, it’s something we have to think about. x

    1. Yes, some people definitely do and then they can’t understand why some people are hesitant about getting one or how others can have negative experiences with it.x

  8. I was interested to read this as I lie in bed with a particularly bad episode of cold, aches, pains etc 🙁 The flu is definitely going around our area at the moment. The NHS are currently doing a trial at our school where kids get the vaccine free up to year 4 kids….and my kids have had it in the past too on a similar trial. I’m still on the fence though. Interesting article, thank you!

    1. Oh no, I’m sorry you’ve caught it too. I really do hope you’re feeling better soon (though the flu can really hang on when it wants to!) as it can make you feel incredibly rotten. I’m not sure of the trials for children and so I think I’m rather on the fence too, though I’ve not heard any horror stories from these jabs unlike with other vaccinations. Rest up! xx

  9. When they say you might get some slight aches and a slight fever… some of us multiply that significantly. And it ‘feels’ like you have the flu… but you don’t. And I think a lot of the time that is where that myth comes from because some of us react more to it. I know I do. Still get it because I get sick so often. And I have asthma. And I had that N1H1 severely one time.

    1. That’s true. I wish I had got the jab now though because I’ve got the flu again, possibly with another chest infection by how much I’m struggling with breathing – typical as I’d pencilled in a day this week to go into town to go to the pharmacy, and by Friday last week I’d already come down with it! I think the jab would affect everyone differently too, multiplying those possible side-effects to varying degrees. Even the flu for me is just an extension of how I usually feel, so I imagine it must be pretty difficult with getting ill, having the flu or more respiratory issues with asthma on top of it too. Thank you for sharing Nikki, I appreciate it 🙂

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