The influenza (flu) vaccination helps to lower the risk of contracting influenza, a potentially fatal virus that affects the respiratory system (nose, throat and lungs).
Influenza infection normally resolves on its own, but certain people are more susceptible to complications. Children under the age of five, pregnant women, adults over the age of 65, and people of any age with weaker immune systems and certain chronic medical disorders are among those at risk. When vulnerable people catch the flu, it can prove potentially life-threatening.
WHAT DOES THE VACCINE DO?
The flu vaccination stimulates your body’s production of antibodies against the virus. When your body is exposed to the virus, these antibodies attack it, providing you with enhanced protection. It may take up to two weeks for the vaccination to take full effect.
There are several flu strains, which might change from year to year. That is why it is advised that you receive a yearly flu vaccine prior to the beginning of flu season. Doing so will protect you against whichever strains are most likely to be circulating. You should also be vaccinated every year since the antibodies that protect you from influenza might decline over time.
WHO SHOULD GET THE VACCINE AND WHEN?
Everyone over the age of six months, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), should receive an annual flu vaccine.
If you are highly susceptible to flu-related complications, it is especially important that you get the vaccination. You are considered high risk if you:
WHO SHOULD AVOID GETTING THE VACCINE?
- Are above 65 years old,
- Are less than 5 years old,
- Are pregnant (all stages),
- Live or work amongst large groups of people (i.e. doctors, military barracks or nursing homes, teachers),
- Have been diagnosed with a weakened immune system (such as those diagnosed with HIV or cancer, or are taking immunosuppressive medications or chronic steroids),
- Have a chronic condition (such as diabetes, heart disease, COPD, asthma, blood disorder like sickle cell disease, chronic kidney disease, among others),
- Are considered obese (with a Body Mass Index of over 40)
- The vaccine can be safely administered during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
People who have had reported a severe allergic reaction to a past vaccination or any allergy to specific vaccine components.
Children under six months
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Please note: these recommendations apply to the inactivated influenza vaccine.
(These Doses have been recommended according to the BNF for adults and children.)
One dose for adults and children above six months.
Two doses administered four weeks apart for children between six months and nine years who have never received the flu vaccine before.
IT IS NOT SUITABLE FOR PEOPLE WHO FALL OUTSIDE OF THAT BRACKET OR THOSE WHO:
Have taken any antiviral flu medications in the previous two weeks and did not receive the flu vaccine 48 hours after completing their antiviral treatment.
Have an egg allergy and have been recommended an egg-free flu vaccine or one containing less than 120nanogm/ml of ovalbumin.
FLU VACCINE RISKS AND SIDE EFFECTS
Most recorded flu vaccination side effects are mild. Common symptoms may include soreness, swelling or redness at the vaccination site. Other additional symptoms include:
- Fever (in children under 2 years old)
- Muscle aches
- Dizziness or faintness
Some studies have found that fewer than 1 or 2 people in one million are at a higher risk of developing a rare condition called Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) after flu vaccination.
To book your next seasonal flu vaccination and for any questions regarding its potential risks and side effects, click the link below.