How to get the flu jab
If you think you need a flu vaccination, check with your GP, practice nurse or your local pharmacist.
The best time of the year to have a flu vaccination is in the autumn from the beginning of October to early November. Most GP surgeries arrange flu vaccination clinics around this time. It’s free and it’s effective against the latest flu virus strains.
Even if you’ve already had a flu jab in previous years, you need another one each year. The flu jab may only protect you for a year. This is because the viruses that cause flu are always changing.
Flu is a highly infectious illness that spreads rapidly through the coughs and sneezes of people who are carrying the virus.
If you’re at risk of complications from flu, make sure you have your annual flu vaccine available from September onwards. Flu Clinics will take place at the Practice and if you are in the ‘at risk’ you will be offered the flu vaccine. Please enquire at Reception if you have some other condition that you feel may place you in the ‘at risk’ category.
Who should have the jab?
You are eligible for an NHS flu vaccination if you are in an “at-risk” group.
The effects of flu
Flu symptoms can hit quite suddenly and severely. They usually include fever, chills, headaches and aching muscles. You can often get a cough and sore throat. Because flu is caused by a virus and not bacteria, antibiotics won’t treat it.
Anyone can get flu, but it can be more serious for certain people, such as:
If you are in one of these groups, you’re more vulnerable to the effects of flu (even if you’re fit and healthy) and could develop flu complications which are more serious illnesses such as bronchitis and pneumonia, which could result in hospitalisation.
Flu can also make existing medical conditions worse.
Should you have the flu jab?
See your GP about the flu jab if you’re 65 or over, or if you have any of the following problems (however old you are):
a serious heart complaint
a chest complaint or breathing difficulties, including asthma, bronchitis and emphysema
serious kidney disease
lowered immunity due to disease or treatment such as steroid medication or cancer treatment
if you have had a stroke or a transient ischaemic attack (TIA)
if you have a problem with your spleen or you have had your spleen removed
Your GP may advise you to have a flu jab if you have serious liver disease, multiple sclerosis (MS) or some other diseases of the nervous system.
Can I get a flu jab privately?
Yes, you can pay for the flu vaccination privately if you’re unable to have it on the NHS. It is available from some pharmacies and GP’s on a private patient basis.
Pregnant women and the flu jab
If you’re pregnant, you should have the flu jab, regardless of the stage of pregnancy you’ve reached. Pregnant women are more prone to complications from flu that can cause serious illness for both mother and baby.
If you are pregnant and catch flu, talk to your GP urgently as you may need treatment with antiviral medicine.
Carers and the flu jab
If you’re the carer of an elderly or disabled person, make sure they’ve had their flu jab. As a carer, you could be eligible for a flu jab too. Ask your GP for advice.
How the flu vaccine works
The injected flu vaccine contains inactivated strains of the flu virus and therefore cannot cause flu. The flu virus in the vaccine is often grown on fertilised hens’ eggs although egg-free flu vaccine may be available for people with egg allergy. The vaccine contains live, but weakened, forms of flu virus which do not cause flu in those vaccinated.
The pneumo jab
When you see your GP for a flu jab, ask whether you also need the “pneumo jab”to protect you against some forms of pneumococcal infection. Like the flu jab, it’s available free on the NHS to everyone aged 65 or over, and for younger people with some serious medical conditions.
How effective is the flu jab?
No vaccine is 100% effective, however, people who have had the flu jab are less likely to get flu. If you do get flu despite having the jab, it will probably be milder than if you haven’t been vaccinated.
The flu jab doesn’t cause flu as it doesn’t contain live viruses. However, you may experience side effects after having the jab, such as a temperature and aching muscles for a couple of days afterwards. Your arm may feel sore at the site where you were injected. More severe reactions are rare. The flu vaccine only protects against flu, but not other illnesses caused by other viruses, such as the common cold.
Who shouldn’t have the flu jab?
You shouldn’t have the flu vaccination if:
Adult Shingle Vaccinations
A vaccine to prevent shingles, a common, painful skin disease is now available on the NHS to people in their 70s. The shingles vaccine is given as a single injection for anyone aged 70 or 79. Unlike the flu jab, you’ll only need to have the vaccination once. The vaccine is expected to reduce your risk of getting shingles. If you are unlucky enough to go on to have the disease, your symptoms may be milder and the illness shorter.
can be very painful and uncomfortable. Some people are left with pain lasting for years after the initial rash has healed. And shingles is fatal for around 1 in 1,000 over-70s who develop it.
It’s fine to have the shingles vaccine if you’ve already had shingles. The shingles vaccine works very well in people who have had shingles before and it will boost your immunity against further shingles attacks.
What is shingles?
Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is a painful skin rash caused by the reactivation of the chickenpox virus (varicella-zoster virus) in people who have previously had chickenpox.
It begins with a burning sensation in the skin, followed by a rash of very painful fluid-filled blisters that can then burst and turn into sores before healing. Often an area on just one side of the body is affected, usually the chest but sometimes the head, face and eye.
Who can have the shingles vaccination?
Shingles vaccination is offered routinely as part of the NHS vaccination programme for people aged 70 or 79.
The first people to have the vaccine will be those aged 70 or 79 on September 1 2013.
If you were aged 70 or 79 on September 1 2013 but become 71 or 80 before attending for vaccination, you will still be able to have the shingles vaccine.
If you are aged 71 to 78 on September 1 2013, your next opportunity to have the shingles vaccine will be after you have reached the age of 79.
The brand name of the shingles vaccine given in the UK is Zostavax.
The shingles jab is available privately for anyone over the age of 50. It’s expensive and in very short supply, though. Expect to pay between £100 and £200. Your GP can advise on whether it’s safe for you to have, but you may need to visit a private clinic to arrange this.
How is the shingles vaccine given?
As an injection into the upper arm.
How does the shingles vaccine work?
The vaccine contains a weakened chickenpox virus (varicella-zoster virus). It’s similar, but not identical to, the chickenpox vaccine.
Very occasionally, people have developed a chickenpox-like illness following shingles vaccination (fewer than 1 in 10,000 individuals).
How long will the shingles vaccine protect me for?
It’s difficult to be precise, but research to date suggests the shingles vaccine will protect you for at least three years, probably longer.
How safe is the shingles vaccine?
There is lots of evidence showing that the new shingles vaccine is very safe. It’s already been used in several countries, including the US and Canada, and no safety concerns have been raised. The vaccine also has few side effects.
How is shingles spread?
You don’t “catch” shingles – it comes on when there’s a reawakening of chickenpox virus that’s already in your body. The virus can be reactivated because of advancing age, medication, illness or stress and so on.
Anyone who has had chickenpox can get shingles. It’s estimated that around one in five people who have had chickenpox go on to develop shingles. People tend to get shingles more often as they get older, especially over the age of 70. And the older you are, the worse it can be. The shingles rash can be extremely painful, such that sufferers can’t even bear the feeling of their clothes touching the affected skin.
The pain of shingles can also linger long after the rash has disappeared, even for many years. This lingering pain is called postherpetic neuralgia (PHN).