As we head into autumn, we start to notice the return of sniffs, tickly coughs and colds. In fact, October has so far found many people suffering from the symptoms of colds.
October heralds the start of the annual campaign by the NHS to encourage people that are eligible to have their flu jab. Figures from Public Health England show that, on average, some 8,000 people a year die as a result of contracting flu.
Flu vaccination has been recommended in the UK since the late 1960s, and everyone who is aged 65 and over is eligible for a free flu jab. Older people are considered high risk because of their age and are assumed to be more likely to develop potentially serious complications should they contract the disease, such as pneumonia.
To be eligible for a free flu vaccine this year you need to have been born on or before 31 March 1955. You can get your vaccination at your normal GP surgery or at a local pharmacy –
many community pharmacies offer this service. The vaccine is also available free for those with certain health conditions – for example asthma, diabetes and heart complaints – regardless of age. If you think you are eligible, please speak to your community pharmacist or GP.
There are a lot of myths surrounding the efficacy of the flu vaccine, most of which are anecdotal. Put quite simply, the flu vaccine is the best protection available against this unpredictable virus; one that can cause unpleasant, and sometimes severe, illness amongst at-risk groups, including older people, or those with an underlying medical health condition.
Studies have shown that getting the flu jab will not stop all flu viruses, and the level of protection may vary. It is not a 100% guarantee that you’ll be flu-free, but if you do get flu after having the vaccination, it’s likely to be milder and shorter-lived than it would have been had you not had the vaccine. Over time, protection from the injected flu vaccine gradually decreases, and flu strains change. This is why new flu vaccines are produced each year, and why those eligible to have the vaccine for free are advised to have the flu vaccine every year.
There’s also evidence to suggest that the flu vaccine can reduce your risk of having a stroke.
Many people say that they suffer from side effects after having had the vaccine. However, serious side effects of the injected flu vaccine are very rare. Many people may have a mild fever and aching muscles for a couple of days after having the vaccine, and your arm may be a bit sore where you were injected, both of these symptoms are perfectly normal.
So, if you eligible don’t put it off – visit your GP or pharmacy and get your free flu jab as soon as possible – it’s the best way of protecting yourself against the disease this winter.