Get your flu jab - you know it makes sense! - Blog 19

Tuesday, September 18, 2018 - 11:15
Dr Paul Williams, CCG Chair

I spent the glorious summer of 1976 relaxing before starting at medical school on the long road to becoming a doctor. This summer brought back vivid memories of that summer with the weeks of hot dry weather we experienced. Sadly we are now saying good bye to summer and have to address the challenges of autumn and the upcoming winter. That of course means for all doctors it’s the time we start jabbing our patients with flu vaccine.

If you’ve been unlucky enough to have had flu you will not ever want to have it again, those of you who’ve had a bad cold you called flu are in for a shock when you do get it! As far as the NHS is concerned we don’t want you to get flu because of the huge work pressures a flu outbreak can cause the health service and the knock on that has on our ability to look after you when you need it.

There are three main groups the experts feel should have flu vaccine.

·         Over 65s
·         6 months to 65 years who have an illness that makes flu more of a risk for them

·         Pregnant women

Last year we did not get as good a coverage in West Norfolk as the health services across East Anglia as a whole.

 

East Anglia

West Norfolk

Over 65s

73.4%

70.5%

Under 65s at risk

49.2%

47.4%

Pregnant women

48.7%

46.6%

Pregnant and at risk

62.7%

61.4%

 

This year I’d like us to do better, particularly for those of you with an underlying illness which puts you at more risk. Which begs the question, who is at more risk?

Current guidance says you are at more risk if you have a long term condition such as:

  • a heart problem
  • a chest complaint or breathing difficulties, including bronchitis, emphysema or severe asthma
  • a kidney disease
  • lowered immunity due to disease or treatment (such as steroid medication or cancer treatment)
  • liver disease
  • had a stroke or a transient ischaemic attack (TIA)
  • diabetes
  • a neurological condition, eg multiple sclerosis (MS), cerebral palsy or learning disability
  • a problem with your spleen, eg sickle cell disease, or you have had your spleen removed
  • are seriously overweight (BMI of 40 and above)

This list of conditions isn’t definitive. It’s always an issue of clinical judgement. Your GP can assess you to take into account the risk of flu making any underlying illness you may have worse, as well as your risk of serious illness from flu itself. 

Sadly being pregnant also puts you at more risk of serious outcomes from flu so we now encourage all pregnant women to have a flu vaccination too.

This year there have been scientific advances with the flu vaccine. 

The vaccine being offered to people over 65 will be different from usual. In the past some doctors, and even more patients, were sceptical how much protection the vaccine gave you. Well now the vaccine is being prepared in a new way which makes it much more likely to provoke an antibody response from your immune system which means it is much more likely to protect you from flu.

For the at risk group under 65 the vaccine offered will be different too. However, it is not the same as the one our older patients will be offered. The younger patient vaccine will now protect you from four different strains of flu, previously it was only three. This helps us avoid the situation which has happened in the past, where the prevailing strain of flu virus that is casing outbreaks is not included in the vaccine.

One of the main reasons patients give me as to why they do not want the vaccine is that in previous years it gave them a bad cold. Flu vaccine is dead, it can’t give you a cold or flu. However, colds are quite common in October and November when we are vaccinating you. Inevitably when so many people are receiving the vaccine a significant number of the vaccinated will get a cold in the week after the event. They would have got it anyway, it’s not due to the vaccine but us humans always need to find an explanation for things that happen to us and the vaccination is an easy target. Any vaccination can cause a vaccine reaction in the few hours after the jab, usually it is mild or non-existent but can be a little more aggressive, giving aches and a temperature for a few hours, but that is not flu and it doesn’t last long.

So please this year if you qualify for the vaccine please go to your GP surgery or local pharmacy offering the service to get vaccinated……

YOU KNOW IT MAKES SENSE!