Continuing our hugely successful medical series, Dr Ciaran Roarty deals with the many questions surrounding getting the flu vaccine.
The flu vaccine ( or jab) protects against seasonal flu and lasts for a year. It is highly-effective in most people.
The vaccine is normally given in October or November each year. The vaccine itself is made from the three strains of flu virus that are most likely to cause an outbreak.
Every year these are slightly different and so a new flu vaccine is made each year. This is why we need a jab every year to stay protected.
So who decides what the most likely strains are to cause an outbreak?
The World Health Organisation monitors flu viruses all around the world and advises which strains are to be included in the vaccine for any particular year. It is important to realise that the flu vaccine does not prevent other viral infections which cause coughs, colds and flu-like illnesses. The vaccine protects only against the expected flu virus for that particular winter. The vaccine does not contain any living flu virus so it CANNOT cause the flu or any other infections. If you develop a cold or cough some time after getting the vaccine for the flu it is purely coincidental!
Who should get it?
The flu jab itself takes about two weeks to give full protection. It is advised for people who are more likely to develop complications of the flu.
People 65 or over
People a long term health condition such as
• chronic heart disease ( including a history or having had a heart attack or unstable angina)
• chronic lung conditions eg chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cystic fibrosis, moderate or severe asthma or bronchopulmonary dysplasia
• Pregnant mums to be due to increased risk of developing a more severe illness.
• chronic liver disease
• chronic renal failure
• chronic neurological disease including multiple sclerosis, hereditary and degenerative disorders of the central nervous system, previous stroke
• diabetes mellitus
• down syndrome
• morbid obesity i.e. body mass index (BMI) over 40
• immunosuppression due to disease or treatment (including treatment for cancer)
• children aged 6 months and older with any condition that can affect lung function, especially those attending special schools/day centres with cerebral palsy or intellectual disability
• patients on long-term aspirin therapy
People who work in healthcare
People living in a nursing home or other long-term care facility
People in regular contact with pigs or poultry
What are the side effects?
Possibly temporary mild soreness at site of injection.
Sometimes a mildly raised temperature and slight muscle aches for a day or so, which usually settles and does not lead to flu.
Severe problems such as allergic reactions thankfully are rare.
If you have a severe egg allergy you should not get the flu vaccine.
You can get the flu vaccine from your GP, pharmacy or your Occupational Health Dept. if you work in healthcare.
The above information is intended as advice only and should you have any concerns contact your own Doctor.
Dr Ciaran Roarty MB BCh BAO MICGP DRCOG is a full-time GP at Scally McDaid Medical Practice , Scally Place, Letterkenny, Tel 0749164111