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.
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!