The flu vaccination: who should have it and why

People aged 50 to 64 years old will also be offered flu vaccination this year.  This guide from the Government explains how you can help protect yourself and why it’s very important that people who are at increased risk from flu have their free vaccination every year.

Flu is unpredictable. The vaccine provides the best protection available against a virus that can cause severe illness. The most likely viruses that will cause flu are identified in advance of the flu season and vaccines are then made to match them as closely as possible.

The vaccines are given in the autumn ideally before flu starts circulating. During the last 10 years, the vaccine has generally been a good match for the circulating strains.

Flu vaccines help protect against the main types of flu virus circulating.

The harm flu can do

People sometimes think a bad cold is flu, but having flu can often be much worse than a cold and you may need to stay in bed for a few days. Some people are more susceptible to the effects of flu. For them, it can increase the risk of developing more serious illnesses such as bronchitis and pneumonia, or can make existing conditions worse. In the worst cases, flu can result in a stay in hospital, or even death.

Those at increased risk from the effects of flu

Flu can affect anyone, but if you have a long-term health condition, the effects of flu can make it worse even if the condition is well managed and you normally feel well. You should have the free flu vaccine if you have a long-term condition such as:

  • a heart problem
  • a chest complaint or serious breathing difficulties, including bronchitis, emphysema or some people with asthma
  • a kidney disease
  • lowered immunity due to disease or treatment (such as steroid medication or cancer treatment)
  • liver disease
  • had a stroke or a transient ischaemic attack (TIA)
  • diabetes
  • a neurological condition, such as multiple sclerosis (MS) or cerebral palsy
  • a learning disability
  • a problem with your spleen, such as sickle cell disease, or you have had your spleen removed
  • you are seriously overweight (BMI of 40 and above)

This list of conditions isn’t definitive. It’s always an issue of clinical judgement. Your GP can assess you to take into account the risk of flu making any underlying illness you may have worse, as well as your risk of serious illness from flu itself.

Those who should consider having a flu vaccination

All those who have any condition listed above, or who are:

  • aged 65 years or over
  • living in a residential or nursing home
  • the main carer of an older or disabled person
  • a frontline health or social care worker

 

 

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