Why You Should Get the Flu Vaccine
Influenza is a viral illness that comes around almost every year. Symptoms
include runny nose, sore throat, muscle aches, headaches, cough,
lethargy and high fever. Symptoms hit suddenly and severely, and it’s
Lots ofpeople confuse the flu with the common cold. Influenza certainly
shares a lot of symptoms with the common cold but is a rarer and far
more severe disease. It can cause pneumonia and worsen existing
conditions like asthma and heart failure.
There’s usually a new form of the flu every year which is why we don’t develop immunity to it. Viruses mutate with amazing speed, so each flu season sees slightly different genetic versions of the viruses that infected people the year before.
So even if you’ve already had a flu vaccine in previous years, you need
another one each year.
Flu spreads during the winter months and can cause up to five million severe
cases worldwide each year. These can result in a quarter of a million
deaths so it’s something that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Occasionally extremely severe forms of the flu can sweep the world.
Remember the Spanish flu of 1918? It killed 50 million people, which
is about three out of every hundred people. Most experts agree that
it’s only a matter of time before we’re hit by another
devastating flu pandemic.
Severe problems with the flu are still rare but you’d be better off not
catching it. Early reports indicate that this year we may have a
very virulent strain. Luckily we have a vaccine for it. It is
recommended by the WHO and contains protection against the three most
likely strains that will circulate. People who are over 65 should get
it as well as those in at risk groups. These include pregnant women,
those with a long term illness, healthcare workers and anybody
working with pigs or poultry.
Don’t worry, the vaccine does not contain any live virus and so it can’t
give you the flu. This is a very common misconception. In general
practice we get the vaccines in around mid-September, so they should
already be in stock at your local GP. It takes around 2 weeks for the
vaccine to take effect so, get it as soon as possible before the flu
starts to spread. It’s estimated that this vaccine is about 60%
effective. That may not sound terribly reassuring but it’s
important to remember that it’s the best guess of what particular
flu vaccine will take off this year.
There are some people who should be careful of the vaccine. If you have any
illness causing a high temperature, you should wait until you have
recovered before getting it. If you’ve had an allergic reaction to
a previous dose of the vaccine, you should speak to your GP first. If
you have an egg allergy, again speak to your GP. The vaccines do
contain elements of eggs but ones with a lower amounts are available.
Flu vaccines are extremely safe. Hundreds of millions of vaccines have
been given. I will say it again, it does not give you the flu. It is
given usually into the left shoulder and your arm might feel sore at
the injection site. It has very rare allergic reactions and can cause
headaches, low fever, sickness and muscle pains. These are usually
mild and resolve quickly. Like after all injections, people sometimes
The morepeople who get the vaccine, the less likely flu is to spread.