Seasonal flu (also known as influenza) is a highly infectious illness caused by the flu virus. It spreads rapidly through small droplets, by an infected person coughing or sneezing into the air. Because of the changing nature of ‘flu viruses, the World Health Organisation (WHO) monitors the causes and effects of ‘flu viruses throughout the world. Each year it makes recommendations about the strains to be included in vaccines for the forthcoming winter. To provide protection, annual immunisation is ideally with vaccine against those strains that are considered most likely to be predominant in the ‘flu season. Vaccines are prepared using the virus strains in line with WHO recommendations. This winter’s flu jab protects against the same strains of flu as last year’s vaccines, including the H1N1 strain of the flu virus. H1N1 is the same strain of flu that caused the 2009 swine flu pandemic. Although no medical procedure is totally free of risk, flu vaccines are generally very safe. The most common reaction to the jab is a sore arm, or you may feel hot for a day or two after the vaccination. The jab cannot give you flu because it doesn’t contain any active viruses (www.nhs.uk).
Patients at risk include:
- All those aged 65 years or over,
- All those aged 6 months or over in the following at risk groups:
Chronic respiratory, heart, kidney, liver or neurological disease and diabetes; pregnant women are also eligible to receive seasonal flu vaccine, if in doubt check with your midwife or GP. All children (under 16) at risk and immunocompromised individuals will be seen in the Health Centre.
Patients are also eligible if living in long–term residential care homes. Patients who are in receipt of a carer’s allowance or those who are the main carer of an elderly or disabled person, or live in close contact with an immunosuppressed person, whose welfare maybe at risk if their carer falls ill will be given on an individual basis at the GPs discretion.
If you are not mentioned in any of these groups but you would like a ‘flu jab then you will need to find an alternative private supplier, such as a pharmacy or supermarket.