Flu-jabs 2011

Seasonal flu is spreading and some GP’s surgeries have run out of the flu vaccine. The Department of Health have said that there isn’t a national shortage of the vaccine, but there are some local shortages.

Who needs the flu-jab?

The advice from the NHS is that people in ‘at risk’ groups should have the jab. This includes:

* Pregnant women (in any stage of pregnancy).
* Those over 65.
* Those who have a serious medical condition (such as diabetes, a weakened immune system and severe asthma. See the NHS website for a full list).
* Some carers, healthcare professionals and people who work with poultry. See the NHS website for a full list.

Why do people need the flu-jab?

Most people with flu recover in 7-10 days even without treatment. However, for some people with underlying health conditions it can cause complications such as pneumonia, which can be dangerous. This is why people in at risk groups are being advised to have the jab. The flu-jab will raise your immunity to the flu virus – but remember you do need to have it every year.

Is the jab for flu or swine flu?

It’s both. The flu-jab protects against the strains of flu that are expected to be most common every year. Swine flu’s proper name is H1N1, and it’s actually similar to other type of flu. It was nicknamed swine flu by the media as it originated from pigs. This year’s flu-jab includes a vaccine for the H1N1 virus, as well as a vaccine for the 2 other main strains that are around this year – known as B and H3N2.

How effective is the flu-jab?

The flu-jab gives 70-80% reliability against all strains of flu.

If I’m not in an at risk group, do I still need the flu-jab?

No – according to the NHS guidelines, you don’t need it. However, you could still choose to buy it privately from some pharmacies and supermarkets.

Dr Rosemary Leonard told the BBC that the ‘worried well’ shouldn’t have the jab: ‘A lot [of the vaccine supply] is in private chemists and supermarkets and is being given to ‘worried well’ and GPs are now in a situation where we have patients who ought to be getting it, but we can’t get the supplies. So I would urge people, if they are “worried well”, not to have the vaccine.’

However, we spoke to Dr Mike Smith, GP and Trustee of the Patient’s Association, who said it should be up to each individual whether they get the jab or not: ‘If it was a normal flu year, then I’d say do what’s recommended, so you don’t need it if you’re not in an at risk group. But it’s not a normal flu year as swine flu is different. I’d say it’s up to the individual whether they decide to get it.’

I’m in a high risk group and my GP’s surgery has run out of the jab, what do I do?

You could get the jab in a chemist or supermarket – but GP’s should be getting more supplies of the jab soon, so keep asking your surgery.

I’m not in a high risk group but I’d still like the jab, what should I do?

You can get the jab privately from a chemist or supermarket.

Where to next?

Swine flu symptoms
More on flu
How to stop infections and viruses
Flu symptoms