Getting a flu vaccine is more important than ever in 2020, especially if you’re a frontline health or care worker.
With uncertainty surrounding a possible second wave of Covid-19, it makes sense to get vaccinated and protect your health where you can.
Care staff who’ve had the flu jab will also limit the chances of passing it on to vulnerable patients and residents. We ask all nurses and carers working with Florence to ensure you're vaccinated for this reason.
Here, we answer common questions about the flu jab, and let you know where care workers can get free vaccinations.
Your flu vaccine questions answered
What is flu?
Flu is a viral infection affecting the respiratory tract. The main symptoms are fever, chills, headache, aching muscles, joint pain and fatigue. For most people, the flu is a nasty illness (much worse than the common cold!) that leaves you feeling drained and unwell for 1-2 weeks.
Like Covid-19, it is also possible for you to carry the flu virus without having any symptoms.
In some people, flu can progress to more serious illness including bronchitis and pneumonia. Last year, the flu killed more than 8,000 people in the UK with many more than that requiring hospitalisation. Older adults, young children and people with underlying health conditions are particularly at risk.
What is the flu vaccine?
The flu vaccine is formed from parts of dead flu viruses given in a very small dose. The flu vaccine leads to an immune response and causes you to make antibodies to the flu. If you then encounter real life flu from an infectious person, your immune system is able to fight the infection off much more effectively.
How effective is the flu vaccine?
The vaccine is 60-70% effective, depending on your age and health, and how well the vaccine matches the types of flu circulating.
Is the flu vaccine safe?
Yes - across the world, millions of people receive the flu vaccine every year. The research overwhelmingly shows that the vaccine is safe and each vaccine is thoroughly tested before it is used.
Is it safe in pregnancy?
No study has detected any risk to receiving the vaccine while pregnant, and in fact the NHS recommends that pregnant women receive the vaccine.
Are there any side effects to the flu vaccine?
You may see some bruising or feel stiffness in your muscle where you’ve been injected. People also sometimes report mild fever, muscle or joint pain after receiving a vaccination - but these are much less serious than flu symptoms.
It’s impossible to get flu from having the flu vaccine because the vaccine doesn’t contain live viruses.
What are the benefits to you?
If you are over 65 or have an underlying health condition, getting the flu vaccine significantly reduces your chances of contracting a disease that could send you to hospital or kill you. It’s a no-brainer to get it.
If you work in a frontline health or care role, it’s also important that you get the flu vaccine. We do not know yet the effects of having both flu and Covid-19 at the same time but it is likely to be dangerous. Now more than ever, it is important to get protected.
What are the benefits to patients and residents?
We have all seen the recent devastating effects of Covid-19 outbreaks in care homes, and flu is no different. Elderly and vulnerable residents are particularly at risk in an outbreak. Health and care workers can significantly decrease the chance of bringing flu into a care home by getting vaccinated.
How long does the flu vaccine last?
Seasonal flu viruses mutate quickly. There is often a difference in strains that occur between one year and the next, and vaccines are made to specifically target strains that are currently in the population. If you had a flu vaccine last year, it will likely offer you little protection this time around. That’s why it’s important to get vaccinated every year, to stay protected.
When should I get the flu vaccine?
In the UK, the flu season typically runs between October and March with the peak coming in the December to March period. It is recommended to get the flu vaccine before October as this will help limit outbreaks occurring.
Who is eligible for the free flu vaccine?
The NHS has extended its free vaccine coverage in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.
It recommends you have the flu vaccine if you:
- Are a frontline health or care worker
- Are 50 years old or over
- Are pregnant
- Have certain medical conditions (more information here)
- Are living in a long-stay residential care home or another long-stay care facility
- Receive a carer's allowance, or you're the main carer for an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if you fall ill
- Live with someone who's at high risk of coronavirus (on the NHS shielded patient list) or you expect to be with them on most days over winter
Children over six months with a long-term health condition are also eligible, as well as those aged two and three, and those in all school years up to and including year seven.
If you fall outside of these groups, it’s still a good idea to get vaccinated and help limit the spread of infection. The typical cost is £12.99, and a jab can be booked at several national pharmacy chains (links for booking online are found below).
Where do I get a flu vaccine?
If you’re a frontline health or care worker, your employer should be able to arrange for you to receive a flu vaccine. This includes those working in care or nursing homes, at a home care organisation, or in a hospice.
If your employer doesn’t offer a vaccination programme, you could also go to your GP, or to a number of pharmacies across the country who will give you a dose for free.
Book a flu jab at:
Need any help?
If you’re a Florence nurse or carer with questions about getting the flu vaccine, please get in touch - we’ll be happy to help you find out where to go locally. Simply call us on 020 3911 2555, or email us at [email protected].