By: George Owen

Everything You Need To Know About Flu Vaccines

Free on the NHS and available every year, flu vaccines will be available to over 30 million people in the UK this year, including health and social care workers.

Now more than ever, it’s vital that you get a vaccination if you can. Autumn is the best time to have a flu vaccination, and in 2020, the annual flu season will coincide with COVID-19, potentially causing additional health issues and unmanageable levels of pressure on the NHS.

Certain demographics can have a severe and potentially fatal reaction to flu, so keep reading for everything you need to know about flu vaccinations.

Complications caused by flu:

Flu is unpleasant for everyone, but the majority of people experience mild symptoms and recover within a matter of days. However, you could develop the following:

  • pneumonia
  • sinus infection
  • ear infection
  • inflammation of the heart, brain and muscles tissues.
  • organ failure
  • health issues that can lead to sepsis

People with chronic medical conditions (e.g. asthma and heart disease) can experience more frequent/worsened complications with their condition.

Symptoms of flu:

  • fever or a temperature
  • difficulty sleeping
  • cough
  • sore throat
  • runny or blocked nose
  • muscular pain
  • shivering
  • headaches
  • fatigue
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhoea

Who needs a flu vaccination?

  • adults 65 and over (potentially extended to over 50’s later in the year)
  • people with certain medical conditions (including children in at-risk groups from 6 months of age)
  • pregnant women
  • people living with someone who’s at high risk from coronavirus (on the NHS shielded patient list)
  • children aged 2 and 3
  • children in primary school
  • children in year 7 (secondary school)
  • frontline health or social care workers

Who should avoid flu vaccinations?

  • people allergic to eggs – interestingly, flu vaccinations are made using eggs!
  • people who have a high temperature or fever should postpone their vaccination.
  • children who qualify for the nasal spray vaccination should postpone if they have a blocked or runny nose.

If you have had an allergic reaction to a flu vaccine in the past, avoid having another without guidance from your GP.

Which types of flu vaccination are available, and which one should you get?

If you are eligible for a flu vaccine on the NHS, the method of vaccination will depend on your age:

  • Between 6 months and 2 years old (in the high risk of flu group): injected flu vaccine as the nasal spray option is not licensed for this category.
  • 2-17: live vaccine (LAIV) as a nasal spray
  • 18-64: injected inactivated vaccine
  • 65+: injected inactivated vaccine

When should you get a flu vaccine?

You can be vaccinated at any time during the flu season (December-March), but the best time to get vaccinated is in the autumn (September-early November) as flu is most aggressive during the winter months.

In 2020, the Government’s aim is for all those eligible to get vaccinated before Christmas with an overall target of 30 million vaccinations across the UK – up from 15 million last year.

Where can you get a flu vaccine?

  • your GP surgery
  • a local pharmacy that supports the vaccination service
  • midwifery services if they offer it for pregnant women

If you have any questions about flu vaccines, please seek advice from your GP.