Flu vaccination: What you need to know about this year’s programme

With one other flu season nearly upon us our Medical Director Professor Paul Cosford has answered some key questions about flu and flu vaccination.

What is flu?

Influenza, or flu, is a viral an infection that primarily impacts the respiratory system. It is often characterised by fever, chills, headache, aching muscle mass, joint ache and fatigue.

When ought to I get vaccinated?

We encourage those that are eligible to promptly get their flu vaccine when they’re referred to as for immunisation, so they’re protected for the height of the season which is often round January and February, though this can change yearly. The flu season can final till May relying on which pressure is circulating and how briskly it spreads, however exercise often dies down between March and April.

Why is flu an issue?

Flu is contagious that means it may possibly simply be unfold to others. Some folks with flu would not have any signs nevertheless they might nonetheless have the opportunity to go the virus to others .

In most individuals, flu is a self-limiting sickness, nevertheless for some folks, significantly these in what we name ‘at-risk’ teams, flu can ends in a  critical an infection.

Who is most in danger from flu?

There are sure teams who’re at larger danger from flu; these embody pregnant ladies, these over the age of 65 and people with critical health situations. We provide the flu vaccine to folks in all of those teams, in addition to some kids, to assist defend them from catching and spreading flu. Eligible folks can have their flu vaccine at their GP surgical procedure or a neighborhood pharmacy providing the service. Some midwifery companies can provide the vaccine to pregnant ladies every winter.

This yr we’re introducing a more practical flu vaccine for these aged 65 and over in addition to providing all eligible adults beneath 65 the ‘quadrivalent’ vaccine, which protects towards a complete of 4 strains of flu.

What’s new for the 2018/19 flu season?

The newly accessible ‘adjuvanted’ vaccine for these aged 65 and over is predicted to considerably increase effectiveness by enhancing the physique’s immune response to the vaccine. This is essential as a result of sometimes, older adults’ our bodies don’t reply as effectively to the flu vaccine due to their naturally weaker immune methods. Older adults are additionally extra seemingly to undergo problems from flu.

This enhanced vaccine has the potential to lead to:

  • 30,000 fewer GP appointments
  • 2,000 fewer folks needing hospital care
  • 700 fewer deaths from flu in England

The broader flu vaccination programme may even be improved by providing all eligible adults beneath 65, together with pregnant ladies, health care employees and people with critical health situations, the ‘quadrivalent’ vaccine in injected type. This protects towards a complete of 4 strains of flu; two strains of flu A and two strains of flu B.

We may even prolong the nasal spray vaccine to major college kids in yr 5 (650,000 additional kids), that means the vaccine shall be provided in colleges to kids in reception and in years 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 and to two and three yr olds by common apply. The programme will ultimately roll out to all major college kids. Due to having sometimes poorer hand and respiratory hygiene than adults, kids have a tendency to unfold flu extra simply, so defending them can also be essential for shielding the remainder of the inhabitants.

National medical leaders have despatched a letter to all chief executives of NHS trusts highlighting the significance of frontline healthcare employees defending their sufferers, colleagues and households by getting vaccinated towards flu. NHS England has additionally provided the vaccine to social care employees freed from cost once more this yr which are typically in shut contact with a number of the most weak teams.

How can I defend myself, my household and people round me from the flu?

Flu may be very infectious and the virus can stay on arms and exhausting surfaces for up to 24 hours. This is why it’s important to “Catch it, Bin it, Kill it” – “Catch” any sneezes in a tissue, “Bin” any tissues instantly and “Kill” the virus by washing your arms with cleaning soap and heat water. Avoid contact with sick folks and wash your arms typically with cleaning soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand rub. If you are unwell, take care of your self, drink loads of fluids and keep at residence so you don’t unfold flu to others.

The vaccine stays the very best defence we now have to defend towards the unfold of flu and we encourage everybody eligible to get it annually.

What forms of vaccine ought to I get?

Adults beneath 65 in in danger teams and pregnant ladies shall be provided the quadrivalent vaccine this yr which protects towards 4 strains of flu.

Those aged 65 and over shall be provided the newly launched enhanced ‘adjuvanted’ model of the trivalent vaccine, which boosts their immune response.

Children receiving the flu vaccine as a part of the childhood flu vaccination programme will obtain a quadrivalent vaccine as a nasal spray – or by injection if they aren’t eligible to obtain the spray.

Will the vaccine work?

How effectively the vaccine will work varies yr on yr as we will by no means totally predict how flu will have an effect on the inhabitants. Overall, our data discovered that the vaccine was not as efficient final yr as we often see, significantly for these aged 65 and over. This is why we’re bringing within the enhanced vaccine for this group this season. In addition, we’re providing the quadrivalent vaccine to all beneath 65s in in danger teams which can defend towards 4 strains of flu.

How are flu vaccine strains determined?

The World Health Organization (WHO) screens influenza globally and annually convenes a vaccine composition group that recommends the strains of flu virus that must be included within the flu vaccine for the subsequent flu season based mostly on a assessment of information from all over the world.  It then takes 6-8 months for the vaccine producers to produce adequate portions of the flu vaccine for the annual marketing campaign.

Flu is unpredictable. If a change within the virus is detected as soon as manufacturing has started there isn’t time to change it forward of the flu marketing campaign.

What had been the uptake charges for 2017/18?

Last yr we noticed improved uptake charges in all classes:

  • 6% in these aged 65 and over
  • 9% for these aged 6 months to beneath 65 years of age with a number of underlying health downside
  • 2% in pregnant ladies
  • 7% in healthcare employees
  • 5% at school aged kids
  • 8% and 44.2% in kids aged 2 and 3 respectively.

There is clearly nonetheless room for enchancment throughout the vaccination programme and we urge everybody who’s eligible or answerable for an eligible person to assume about defending their health with the vaccine this winter.

Should all healthcare employees be vaccinated?

Unless contraindicated, healthcare professionals have a accountability to be vaccinated to defend their sufferers from flu. Their NHS employers have a accountability to make it simple for employees to get the vaccine.

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