Flu fighter campaign

Getting your flu jab or not is an important decision that you have to make each year. It makes sense that you have questions about its safety and effectiveness amongst other things. The flu fighter team at NHS Employers have pulled together the information that you need on flu and the flu vaccine.

Jason and Jaqueline's flu story

This film details the story of Jacqueline Jones who contracted the flu virus with serious effects. Her son, staff nurse Jason Jones, from Fletcher Ward recounts the story of the effect on Jacqueline and her family. Neither had received a flu jab.

Optimism bias

This idea of unrealistic optimism involves people believing negative things are more likely to happen to others, while positive things are more like to happen to them.

In terms of flu, a large part of the issue is in the stereotype that you may have of those who get the flu. Having been medically educated to recognise that at-risk patients are generally above 65 or have another health condition, you may have turned this kind of person into the prototype of a flu patient who need to be vaccinated. Furthermore, as a person who spends a majority of their time around less healthy patients, you may have a skewed view of what the average level of health is in the public. Therefore, you are more likely to perceive yourself as above average health-wise and less in need of preventative action.

You may also believe you have more control over a situation than you really do by believing using sterile equipment and washing your hands is sufficient protection enough, but the flu vaccine is the single best protection against flu.

You can spread flu to your patients with no symptoms

Without any knowledge of it happening, you could give flu to the patients and service users you take care of and potentially cause severe complications or even death. A Lancet study indicates up to 77% of people with flu have no symptoms. Keeping in mind that even up to one third of influenza deaths are in healthy people as this mortality study indicates.

Flu vaccine evidence

Public Health England (PHE) has run a pilot study of flu vaccination on school children and the results indicate primary school aged children have 94% lower GP influenza-like illness if vaccinated, compared to the unvaccinated group.

A study showed that flu vaccine reduced children’s risk of flu-related paediatric intensive care unit admissions by 74% during flu seasons from 2010-12.

One study showed that flu vaccination was associated with a 71% reduction in flu-related hospitalisations amongst adults of all ages and a 77% reduction amongst adults 50 years of age and older during the 2011-12 flu season.

Flu vaccination is an important preventive tool for people with chronic health conditions. Vaccination was associated with lower rates of some cardiac events amongst people with heart disease, especially amongst those who have had a cardiac event in the past year. Flu vaccination also has been shown to be associated with reduced hospitalisations amongst people with diabetes (79%).

Other studies have shown that vaccination can reduce the risk of flu-related hospitalisations in older adults. A study that looked at flu vaccine effectiveness over the course of 3 flu seasons estimated that flu vaccination lowered the risk of hospitalisations by 61% in people 50 years of age and older.

Flu vaccine effectiveness

There are 2 factors involved in determining the effectiveness of the flu vaccine. The first is the characteristics of the person being vaccinated and the second how good of a match there is between the circulating influenza strains and the vaccine itself.

"In recent years, we have typically seen an effectiveness of around 50% (ranging from 25 to 70%). Whilst it’s not possible to fully predict the strains that will circulate in any given season, flu vaccination remains the best protection we have against an unpredictable virus."

Professor Paul Cosford, PHE’s director for health protection and medical director

The flu vaccine has an excellent safety record

The risk of having a serious (anaphylactic) reaction to the seasonal flu vaccine is less than one in a million. Much lower than the risk of getting seriously ill from having the flu itself. If you have had a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to a flu vaccine before, please talk to a clinician before getting vaccinated. If you have a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to hens’ eggs, you should enquire about vaccines with a very low egg content and be vaccinated under clinical supervision. The flu jab cannot give you the flu.

It's impossible to get flu from the having the flu jab because the vaccine doesn’t contain live viruses. A very small number of people experience side effects such as aching muscles, but this is simply the immune system responding to the vaccine.

The side effects of the flu vaccination are mild. For the most part, seasonal flu vaccine side effects are mild or often non-existent. The most common side effect is soreness around the site of the injection and occasionally aching muscles. These symptoms are a lot less serious than having flu. You need the vaccine every year.

If you were vaccinated last year, you joined to fight against flu and took an extra step towards excellent patient care. Please do the same again this year. You will not be protected against the new strains of flu that are circulating.

Pregnant women can be vaccinated

Pregnant women can have the flu vaccination at any stage of their pregnancy. Vaccination helps protect women during pregnancy and their babies for up to 6 months after they are born. One study showed that giving flu vaccine to pregnant women was 92% effective in preventing hospitalisation of infants for flu.