It’s just the flu…

4 October 2020, NHS North Central London CCG

You will have heard friends and family say it is “Just” the flu! Each year the flu kills on average 11,000 people and hospitalises thousands more. There’s no “just” about it! 

What causes flu? Flu is caused by influenza viruses that infect the windpipe and lungs. And because it’s caused by viruses and not bacteria, antibiotics won’t treat it. However, if there are complications from getting flu, antibiotics may be needed.

How do we protect against flu? Flu is unpredictable. The vaccine provides the best protection available against a virus that can cause severe illness. The most likely viruses that will cause flu are identified in advance of the flu season and vaccines are then made to match them as closely as   possible. The vaccines are given in the autumn ideally before flu starts circulating. During the last ten years the vaccine has generally been a good match for the circulating strains. It is more important than ever this year to have your vaccination to protect yourself, your loved ones and the NHS, and for those on the eligible list the vaccine is provided free. 

You should have the flu vaccine if you: 

· are 65 years old or over   

· are pregnant 

· are an adult or child with certain conditions

· live with someone on the shielded patient list

· are living in a care home or other long-stay facility

· receive a carer’s allowance, or you’re the main carer for an elderly or disabled person 

· are aged two – three

· are in primary school, or the first year of secondary school (Year 7) 

· are a frontline health and social care worker

The NHS will contact you directly if you are eligible, and will give you information about where to go to get the vaccine. 

Will the flu vaccine protect me against COVID-19? The flu vaccine won’t protect you against COVID-19, but it will help protect you against the strains of flu virus that will be circulating this year. Helping to protect against flu is particularly important with COVID-19 in circulation because people vulnerable to COVID-19 are also at risk of complications from flu.

Is the flu vaccination safe?

The flu vaccination is safe and effective and must be given annually. It cannot give you the flu. Adults usually receive the flu vaccination in injection form, and children usually receive a nasal spray. 

When can I get the flu vaccination?

We expect that the flu vaccination will be available from autumn 2020 onwards for those on the eligible list. You will be invited to book a vaccination appointment at around this time, but please contact your GP practice if not. It’s important that you have your vaccination as soon as possible. 

Where can I get the flu vaccination?

Many people will receive their flu vaccination at a GP surgery as usual. This year some GPs are also looking at running clinics in other additional locations to ensure they can offer the vaccine safely to as many people at risk as possible. Your practice will give clear guidance on where you need to go when you book your appointment. Other people may choose to go to a pharmacy or another location in their community. School-aged children will receive their vaccination from a trained health professional at school. Health professionals will visit care homes to vaccinate residents and staff on-site and will also visit those who are house-bound. 

Is it safe to attend appointments at health clinics?

The NHS is doing everything it can to make sure that vaccinations are given in safe environments and staff giving you your vaccination will be using the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). You will need to wear a mask unless you are exempt. All possible precautions will be to taken to make sure you, and staff, are protected and safe. 

There has never been a more important time to make sure you, and those you care for, are protected against serious illnesses such as the flu. Where vaccines are available, it’s vital that we use them to help keep everyone safe. Look out for updates from your local GP or NHS team and book your vaccination as soon as you are invited to do so. Get the flu vaccination, stay well and protect yourself, your loved ones and the NHS. 

More information can be found at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/who-should-have-flu-vaccine/