Article written by Christine Clark
Flu vaccination is safe, effective and is offered free of charge to thirty million people in the UK this year in the country’s largest flu-immunisation programme to date – so should you get a jab?
The answer is an unequivocal ‘yes’ – for the following reasons:
- Co-infection with influenza and SARS-CoV2 can cause serious illness.
Seasonal influenza activity peaks in the winter and this year that will coincide with circulating SARS-CoV2 (covid-19). If you are unlucky enough to get both infections together the outcome the risk of severe illness and/or death appears to increase substantially. According to a pre-print posted in September 2020, a study of patients with influenza-covid coinfection had a risk of death of 5.92 (95% CI, 3.21-10.91) times greater than among those with neither influenza nor SARS-CoV-2. Nearly 20,000 hospitalised individuals were tested for both infections and 58 were found to be co-infected, of whom 43% died compared to 27% of those who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 alone.
- Having the flu jab helps to eliminate influenza as a cause of respiratory symptoms.
- Influenza infection is not without risk – some 11,000 people die as a result of influenza infection each year and many more are hospitalised. It should not be forgotten that severe influenza can be a trigger for serious heart disease (ischaemic heart disease and acute myocardial infraction) and can exacerbate renal disease and diabetes.
For these reasons government scientists are urging all those at risk of getting or transmitting flu to get the vaccine in the coming weeks and months.
The NHS offers the flu vaccine via GPs and community pharmacies.
This year, the free vaccination is being offered in England to:
- Adults aged 65 and over
- People with some medical conditions, including diabetes, heart failure and asthma
- People who were required to shield from coronavirus – and anyone they live with
- Pregnant women
- Children aged from two-11
- Health and social care workers
Health officials in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales are planning to cover similar groups.
Later in the year, the flu vaccine may be given to people aged 50 to 64. At present the NHS says anyone aged 50-64, and in an at-risk group, should “not delay” having the flu vaccine.
Drive-through flu jab service
A total of 13 Asda branches are offering a ‘drive-through’ flu jab service for those eligible for free vaccination. Individuals wishing to access the service can make an appointment by phone or directly with the store and then pull up their vehicle into a vaccination station bay, where a pharmacist will come to administer their jab through the vehicle’s window. Research shows that 28 per cent of UK adults are worried about getting a flu jab due to concerns they might come into contact with the coronavirus, but the drive through service minimises non-essential contact.