Below is a briefing on the Winter 2018/19 Flu Jab Programme. There is some confusion this year as the “Fluad Jab” is only available to over 75s in Scotland (over 65s get it in England). However, all other eligible people (see table below) will get the usual jab as normal. That includes people like my wife (she’s a nurse) and myself (I have a cardiac pacemaker).
Flu had a major impact on the lives of many in 2017, with an increase in both the number of reported flu cases and hospitalisations due to flu. The impact was felt in all walks of life and is one of the most unpleasant illnesses today, and in some cases, particularly for our most vulnerable can be fatal. Flu has a financial impact with days lost to sick leave impacting on business productivity and services reduced
As a result, this year’s campaign, commencing on the 1 October 2018 is focused on highlighting the serious nature of flu, urging those eligible for the vaccine to act early to ensure they are ready for flu ahead of winter.
By ensuring we vaccinate as many of the population as possible we can break the chain, protect the population and reduce the impact.
Eligible groups for the free vaccination include anyone with a health condition, people aged 65 and over, pregnant women and children from age 2 until the end of primary school.
Myths and facts about flu
Myth – Only old people get flu
Anyone of any age can catch flu – but certain people are more at risk of serious side effects. This group includes older people, who are at risk because of their age, but also people of any age even if they feel fit and healthy who have certain long-term medical conditions like heart, lung, liver or kidney problems or lowered immunity due to disease or treatments. Pregnant women are also at greater risk. People of all ages are seriously affected by flu every year.
Myth – The flu vaccine hasn’t been tested, it’s not safe!
A complete myth – All vaccines, including flu vaccines, have to be tested before they can be licensed in the UK, and they have to be licensed before they can be used. Also remember that flu vaccines have been in use since the 1960s, and around a million doses are administered every year in Scotland alone – it’s one of the most commonly administered medicines. Like all medicines, some patients will experience side effects to flu vaccination but these are generally mild and usually resolved without treatment.
Myth – There’s mercury in the vaccine
There is no mercury present in the vaccines used in Scotland. One vaccine may have a tiny amount of ethylmercury or ‘thiomersal’ left in it from the manufacturing process but, ethylmercury is completely safe. You would get more mercury from a single tuna sandwich than from the flu vaccine.
Myth – It’s dangerous for pregnant women and their babies to be vaccinated
When you’re pregnant, your immune system changes, so women are at greater risk of complications from flu, such as having a miscarriage or going into premature labour. The flu vaccine will protect you and your unborn child and it can also protect your baby for three months after birth providing extra peace of mind during that crucial first stage. The vaccine is offered free to all pregnant women and is endorsed by the Royal College of Midwives as well as Scotland’s Chief Medical and Chief Nursing Officers.
Myth – Flu is just a bad cold
Colds and flu are caused by different viruses and the effects vary hugely. Colds come on gradually (runny nose, then sore throat then a cough) but flu hits you straight away and most commonly with a fever. Flu is a much more dangerous virus which can lead to serious infections and illness. It’s a contagious disease of the respiratory tract (nose, throat, and lungs) that can lead to complications including pneumonia, bronchitis, meningitis and encephalitis. It can cause worsening of chronic conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes.
Amongst even healthy people flu can disrupt your work and social plans for up to two weeks and you can expect to have a fever, headaches, extreme tiredness, cough, sore throat, nasal congestion, and body aches.
Myth – Antibiotics can cure flu
Absolutely not! Antibiotics kill bacteria. Flu is caused by viruses, which don’t respond to antibiotics. Sometimes people who experience complications as a result of flu can be given antibiotics because they develop a secondary bacterial infection (such as bacterial pneumonia) – but this is not flu itself, instead, it is the result of the body being weakened by the virus and letting bacteria take hold. The best way to protect yourself against flu is to get vaccinated as early as possible.
Myth – The flu vaccine protects you straight away
It actually takes about ten days for you to be protected against flu after you get the vaccine – so theoretically you could be immunised and then pick up flu before you are fully protected. That is why it is best to get the vaccine as early as possible and before there are lots of flu viruses circulating.
Myth – The flu vaccine will stop me from catching a cold
No, it won’t. The flu vaccine protects you against flu viruses. Colds are caused by other less serious viruses that are completely different from flu. You may still get winter colds after getting the flu vaccine, but you’re much less likely to get flu itself, which is potentially a much more serious condition.
Fact – Coughs and sneezes spread diseases
Flu viruses are spread by spluttering, sneezing and other ways of sharing your germs. In fact, one sneeze from someone with flu can project between 2,000 and 5,000 particles of virus-filled droplets at a speed of 100mph. Anyone within 30 feet of that sneeze is unlikely to avoid those droplets and therefore could become infected.
Visit http://www.nes.scot.nhs.uk/flu/hcw for more myth-busting facts.