For some people influenza (flu), is just a miserable week. It means days in bed with a combination of chills, a fever, aching limbs, a headache, a cough and fatigue. It’s caused by a respiratory infection that affects the lungs and airways; it’s not a pleasant experience, but usually it passes quickly and you can expect a full recovery.
However, for some people it can be dangerous, deadly even; the risk of developing complications such as pneumonia and bronchitis, is why the NHS runs an annual campaign encouraging at risk groups to get vaccinated.
In this post we ask who actually needs the vaccine and answer some of the common questions we get asked in our pharmacies every day.
Who can get the flu?
Anyone can get the flu and no one is immune from it. Flu is spread through saliva droplets that travel when an infected person coughs or sneezes, which is why it is good practice to maintain good hygiene and wash your hands regularly. But although these steps reduce the risk, there is no guarantee they’ll stop the infection.
The reason the free vaccine isn’t offered to everyone is because for most of the population, it poses no real threat. But even if you’re not considered as being ‘at risk’, you can minimise your risk of illness by accessing our private flu vaccination service.
If you are a carer or spend time around other vulnerable groups, you have a duty of care to protect them from catching the flu, and that’s why NHS Wales funds vaccinations for those in front of line care settings via your GP surgery or local pharmacy.
Who is most at risk of complications?
Those who are considered high risk are the young, the elderly or those with pre-existing medical conditions. If you meet any of the following criteria, then you should take steps to get vaccinated sooner rather than later:
- Aged 65 years or over
- Aged 6 months to 11 years
- Has diabetes
- Is pregnant
- Has a chronic heart condition
- Has a chronic chest complaint
- Has a chronic kidney disease
- Has chronic liver disease
- Has a chronic neurological condition
- Has spleen issues
- Has lowered immunity due to disease or medication.
- Is morbidly obese
Will the flu vaccine work?
When we stick to the facts, recent studies show up to a 60% success rate. For those vulnerable people who could develop life threatening secondary infections, the flu vaccination can have a big impact on whether they stay healthy this winter.
The NHS consider the vaccination so significant that they spend more than £100 million every year on their Beat Flu campaign to help protect those most at risk.
I had it last year, do I need it again?
The flu vaccine administered in 2017 was unique and this year’s will be too. It is manufactured each year to protect people from the evolving influenza virus. As it continues to mutate, scientists have to adapt the vaccine accordingly. This is why it is important that those most at risk of flu get the jab every single year to avoid leaving themselves vulnerable to the new strain.
Where can I get it?
The NHS pharmacy flu vaccination is available for anyone over the age of 18. Some of our stores can provide a private service to children over the age of 16.
Getting an appointment to fit in with your busy schedule isn’t always easy and many people miss this potentially life-saving vaccine because of clashing timetables. This is why pharmacies are now able to offer the flu vaccination to make it easier for you.
Children in primary school will have the opportunity to receive the flu vaccine as a nose spray in school, but those who are younger or older can book an appointment with their GP.
You can drop into any of our pharmacies without an appointment and get the protection you need this winter. Our walk-in service is extremely popular, which is why we urge people to come and see us sooner rather than later before supplies of the vaccine start running low.