Who Can Have The Flu Vaccine
The flu vaccine is given free on the NHS to people who:
- are 50 and over
- have certain health conditions
- are pregnant
- are in long-stay residential care
- receive a carer’s allowance, or are the main carer for an older or disabled person who may be at risk if you get sick
- live with someone who is more likely to get infections
- frontline health or social care workers
You Feel Moderately Or Severely Ill
You can still get a flu shot if you have a simple cold or mild illness. However, if you’re moderately or severely ill, it may be best to wait until you feel better to get the flu vaccine. Dr. Monique May, MD, warns the flu shot is also not recommended “if you actually have the flu at the time you go for the shot.”
When you’re severely sick, your body’s immune system is busy trying to fight off your illness. If you get a flu shot, your body may be delayed in producing the immunity response to the flu that the vaccine is trying to achieve. Since your immune system is trying to do two things at once, it may also take you longer to recover from your illness if you get a flu shot when you’re sick.
Moderate or severe illness may include a fever or other symptoms. Talk to the medical provider or your doctor if you’re not feeling well but you’re scheduled for your flu shot. You may need to reschedule when you feel better so your body can fully recover first.
Flu Vaccine For Frontline Health And Social Care Workers
If you’re a frontline health and social care worker, your employer should offer you a flu vaccine. They may give the vaccine at your workplace.
You can also have an NHS flu vaccine at a GP surgery or a pharmacy if:
- you’re a health or social care worker employed by a registered residential care or nursing home, registered homecare organisation or a hospice
- you work in NHS primary care and have direct contact with patients this includes contractors, non-clinical staff and locums
- you provide health or social care through direct payments or personal health budgets, or both
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Who Should Not Get A Flu Vaccine
Children younger than 6 months cannot get a flu shot. Those who’ve had a severe allergic reaction to a flu vaccine in the past should not get that type of flu shot again, and should speak with their health care provider about whether they can receive another type of flu shot, the CDC says. Similarly, people who’ve had a life-threatening reaction to ingredients in flu vaccines besides egg proteins shouldn’t get flu vaccines with those ingredients, and should speak with their health care provider about whether there is a flu vaccine that’s right for them, the CDC says.
People with egg allergies can still receive any type of flu shot that’s recommend for their age group, even if the flu shot is made with egg-based technology , the CDC says. Studies have found that people with egg allergies are very unlikely to experience a severe reaction to flu vaccines. People who’ve had a severe allergic reaction to egg should get their flu shot under the supervision of a health care provider who can treat severe allergic reactions, the CDC says. In addition, several types of flu shots are egg-free, including recombinant flu vaccines and cell-based flu vaccines.
You should not get the flu vaccine if you have a high fever.
However, if you have minor illness, like a mild cold or a headache, you can still get a flu shot, Schaffner said. “The vaccine does perfectly well in those folks.”
How Effective Is The Flu Vaccine
The flu vaccine gives the best protection against flu.
Flu vaccines help protect against the main types of flu viruses, although there’s still a chance you might get flu.
If you do get flu after vaccination, it’s likely to be milder and not last as long.
Having the flu vaccine will also stop you spreading flu to other people who may be more at risk of serious problems from flu.
It can take 10 to 14 days for the flu vaccine to work.
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Who Can Get The Flu Vaccine
An annual flu vaccination is provided through the National Immunisation Program for most people in the community who are at an increased risk of serious complications.
In Victoria, an annual vaccination against influenza is free for:
- children aged 6 months to less than 5 years
- people who have medical conditions that put them at risk of serious complications of influenza
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from 6 months and over
- pregnant women at any stage of pregnancy
- people 65 years and over.
Contact your doctor or immunisation provider for further information about eligibility. People not covered by these categories can also have an annual flu immunisation, but it is not available for free.
Nih Is Committed To More Flu Vaccine Research
William Schaffner, MD, an infectious disease specialist and a professor of preventive medicine and health policy at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tennessee, sees the study results as building on evidence indicating that the microbiome the trillions of microbes that live in the gastrointestinal tract has a pervasive effect on our health.
Taking antibiotics clearly had a measurable reduction in the immune response, but we dont know whether its clinically significant yet, says Dr. Schaffner, who was not involved in the study. “It could be that if youre taking antibiotics it might not be a good time to get a flu vaccine, but were not quite there yet in terms of research.
He also points out that the antibiotic combination used in this investigation was not one seen in common practice.
This antibiotic cocktail is a very unusual mix of ingredients, says Schaffner. It seems specifically designed to kill off as many gut bacteria as possible.
For future research, Schaffner would like to see a larger study population and an antibiotic combination used in standard treatment.
Significantly more work needs to be done to truly understand the real impact of the microbiome on influenza, says Embry.
Embry adds that the NIH will continue to support research exploring factors that may improve human immune response to influenza vaccines.
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First Heres Who Should Get A Flu Shot
In general, the CDC recommends that people over the age of six months get an annual flu shot. Worth noting: That includes pregnant people, people with certain chronic health conditions, and those with egg allergies.
However, the CDC says that certain people shouldnt get an annual flu shot, including children under age six months, people with severe, life-threatening allergies to any ingredients in a flu vaccine , and those who have had a severe reaction to a flu vaccine in the past .
Myth #: Antibiotics Can Fight The Flu If You Get It
Antibiotics only kill bacteria, but the flu is caused by a virus.
There are antiviral drugs that can fight flu infections, but they’ve only been shown to work when they’re given within 48 hours of the start of symptoms. “Most people, by the time they go to the doctor, they’re past the 48-hour mark,” said Dr. Dennis Cunningham, an infectious disease specialist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
For patients hospitalized with severe flu, the drugs may help, he said. But they aren’t a cure, and for most people who aren’t hospitalized, these drugs may only cut down on the duration of the flu by a day or two.
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How Do Vaccines Fight Infections
Vaccines help you build a defense against illnesses you could face down the road. We have vaccines against some illnesses caused by bacteria, as well as some caused by viruses.
When you get a vaccine, your body is introduced to harmless examples of bacteria or viruses. This introduction gives your body a heads-up about germs that could become a threat if you encounter them in the future. Your immune system takes note of these possible intruders, and then is ready to respond quickly if you are exposed to them later.
Once youre vaccinated, your immune system has boots on the ground all over your body on the surfaces in your mouth, nose, and eyes, inside your stomach and gut, and circulating in your bloodstream all ready to attack at the first sign of invasion.
The advance intel a vaccine offers is critical: With it, your immune system can stop an infection so fast, you wont ever know it happened.
Remember, though, that vaccines rely on your immune system to build a strong defense, so they work best if you take them while youre healthy.
Where Are Flu Shots Available
During flu season, flu vaccines are available in a number of places:
- Pharmacies, including those within grocery and big-box stores
- Doctors office
- Student health clinic
- Local health department
Some schools and workplaces also sponsor flu shot events on their premises. The CDC also has a vaccine finder website you can use to find both influenza and coronavirus vaccines in your area.
Depending on your insurance coverage, your flu shot may be free or discounted. If you do have to pay full price for a flu shot, its apt to run you $30 to $40. If you cant get a free flu shot, compare prices using our pharmacy directory and show your free SingleCare prescription discount card to your pharmacist to get the best deal possible.
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You Have Something Physical To Do Tomorrow
Have a marathon you’re running tomorrow morning? Scheduled to host a lengthy and involved presentation at work all day? You may want to wait to get your flu shot. While it’s been proven that the flu shot won’t give you the flu, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, there are some side effects you may feel for a few days after getting the vaccine. These side effects may include:
- Redness, swelling, or pain at the flu shot injection site
- Upset stomach
- Muscle aches
In some cases, you may not feel any negative side effects after getting your flu shot. However, if you can plan your shot around a slow week, it may be best, just in case you feel a little under the weather after getting your vaccine.
Complications From The Flu
For some people, the flu can lead to the development of complications. People can die from complications of the flu, such as pneumonia. Common complications from the flu can include:
- Bronchitis: Bronchitis is an infection of the airway that can cause a cough, wheezing, and fatigue. It may go away on its own in a few weeks, but it might also need treatment to resolve, especially if it’s caused by a bacteria that can be treated with antibiotics.
- Ear infections: An infection inside the ear, which is also called otitis media, can occur after having the flu. Some of the symptoms include fever, ear pain, and dizziness or balance problems.
- Pneumonia: Pneumonia is an infection in the lungs that can occur after having a cold or the flu. It can cause pain when breathing, cough with sputum, and fever. Pneumonia can be especially dangerous for the very young and the very old.
- Sinus infections : In a common complication of the flu, the sinuses, which are located around the eyes, can become infected. Sinusitis can cause a headache or facial pain, fever, and sinus congestion. A sinus infection may need treatment, or it may resolve on its own.
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Connection Between Vaccine Response And Preexisting Immunity
The response to the flu vaccine differed between the two groups. All of the first 22 volunteers from 201415 turned out to have high levels of flu antibodies to begin with. So, whether they took antibiotics or not, they had a preexisting immunity to that seasons flu virus strain.
In the 201516 group, however, all selected participants had low levels of flu antibodies at the start and low immunity. None had received a flu vaccination in the three years prior. After getting the flu shot, those who also took the antibiotics had a significant drop in antibodies that would protect them from the H1N1 virus.
Study authors suggest that if these individuals were exposed to this H1N1 virus after vaccination, they would most likely be less protected against getting the flu than people who had not received antibiotics.
Interestingly, the effect on the vaccine response was seen only in people with low levels of preexisting immunity to this vaccine, says Embry. Its important to note that the antibiotic treatment did not appear to significantly impact the immune responses in those who had higher levels of preexisting immunity to influenza.
You Had A Severe Reaction To The Shot Last Year
If you experienced a severe reaction to your flu shot last year, talk to your doctor first before heading in for this year’s vaccine. In most cases, the reaction you experienced wasn’t related to the flu shot at all. However, in some cases, it may be a sign that you’re allergic to a component used in the flu vaccine. According to the Mayo Clinic, “The flu vaccine isn’t recommended for anyone who had a severe reaction to a previous flu vaccine.”
According to Dr. May, you’ll know you’re having a severe allergic reaction if you experience “lip or tongue swelling, wheezing, hives, hoarseness, difficulty breathing, paleness or a fast heartbeat.”
Your doctor may still recommend that you get the flu vaccine since this illness can be dangerous and lead to serious complications. Your medical provider may want to monitor you or have another medical professional observe your reaction to the vaccine this year, just to be safe.
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What About The Nasal Spray Vaccine
In addition to the flu shot, a nasal spray vaccine is available for non-pregnant individuals who are between the ages of 2 and 49. This vaccine uses a weakened form of influenza that cant cause disease.
As with the flu shot, people who have a mild illness can receive the nasal spray vaccine. However, people with moderate to severe illnesses may need to wait until theyve recovered.
Why Do I Need To Get Vaccinated Every Year
You might balk at having to visit your doctor or pharmacy every year for yet another dose of the influenza vaccine, but there’s a good reason for the repeat visits. The flu bug is a pretty wily creature.
“The virus is sort of tricky in the way it reproduces from year to year, in that it shifts its chemical coating from season to season,” explains Geoffrey A. Weinberg, MD, a pediatric infectious disease specialist and professor of pediatrics at the University of Rochester. “Even if you’ve been good about getting flu shots for several years you need to keep it up, because next year’s flu could be very different.”
The flu is far less predictable than measles and chickenpox, which only take a couple of childhood immunizations to provide full protection. “Those diseases are caused by only one strain of virus, and they don’t shift,” says Weinberg.
That annual flu vaccine ritual might soon be coming to an end, however. Researchers have been on the hunt for a universal flu vaccine for several years, and they may be getting close. Recently, they’ve discovered a more consistent target on the flu virus — one that could help them finally develop a flu vaccine that provides long-lasting protection.
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You Should Still Get The Flu Vaccine
The findings, Pulendran says, imply that when next seasons flu strain comes along, you want your gut-resident microbes to be in full bloom in order for your immune system to rise to the occasion. Pulendran offers some advice. Get your annual flu shot, he says. The greater your inventory of immune memory to influenza strains bearing any resemblance to the one thats coming over the hill, the more likely youll be able to deal with it, even if your gut microbes are in short supply.
Other investigators at Emory University, as well as researchers at the Ragon Institute, the University of Chicago, Georgia State University, and the Food and Drug Administration contributed to the work. The study appears in Cell.
Funding came from the National Institutes of Health, the Soffer Endowment, and the Violetta Horton Endowment. Stanfords departments of Pathology and of Microbiology and Immunology also supported the work.
Myth #: The Flu Isn’t Serious
“The flu is certainly a very serious disease,” Cunningham said.
Every year, between 15 million and 60 million cases of the flu are reported in the U.S., Cunningham said. More than 200,000 people with the flu are admitted to hospitals yearly. And between 3,000 and 50,000 people in the U.S. die of the flu yearly. During the 2019-2020 flu season, early estimates by the CDC suggest 38 million Americans were infected with the flu and 22,000 people died from it.
One reason people may not perceive the flu as being serious is that cases of the “stomach flu” are mistaken for influenza virus infections. “True influenza is an infection of the lungs and respiratory tract,” Cunningham said. Infected people may develop a high fever, body aches and nasal congestion, he said.
People with the stomach flu which is commonly caused by a virus called norovirus have diarrhea, cramping and other gastrointestinal symptoms. Influenza does not cause such symptoms.
This article is for informational purposes only, and is not meant to offer medical advice.
Originally published on Live Science.
Rachael has been with Live Science since 2010. She has a master’s degree in journalism from New York University’s Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a B.S. in molecular biology and an M.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has appeared in Scienceline, The Washington Post and Scientific American.
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