Who Should and Who Shouldn’t have the Seasonal Flu Vaccine?

The seasonal flu jab is an important immunisation for people who are particularly vulnerable to the influenza virus. Most of us will be able to take the flu in our stride, suffering a fever and other symptoms for a couple of days before bouncing back and getting on with things. Unfortunately some people face a serious risk when infected with influenza, and in this article we look at who should and who shouldn’t be having the seasonal flu vaccine.

Who needs the seasonal flu injection?

People who are at risk of developing serious respiratory problems like pneumonia and bronchitis would benefit from a yearly flu jab to keep them from suffering a flu infection. The NHS offers the seasonal jab to the following groups free of charge:

  • Healthcare and social workers: Are regularly in contact with people who would be particularly vulnerable to the flu, and as such it is recommended that anyone in these capacities pursues  the flu vaccine to prevent any inadvertent transmission of the influenza virus.
  • Carers: If you provide care for an ill, disabled, or elderly person who would be at risk should they suffer a flu infection then you are eligible for a flu vaccine on the NHS. Because you are in close contact with a vulnerable person, it is advised that you take the vaccine to prevent any unwanted infection.
  • Anyone aged 65 and above: The immunity of the elderly tends to be less effective and therefore less able to effectively deal with a flu infection. This is one of the reasons why the elderly are so susceptible to the complications of influenza.
  • Immunocompromised patients: A number of conditions, most notably the human Immunovirus (HIV) attack the immune system and leave it less able to effectively deal with infection. People suffering from a weakened immune system are described as immunocompromised, and must take special precautions to prevent any infections. Some types of cancer treatment can also cause a person to become immunocompromised, and these include chemo- and radiotherapy.
  • Chronic illness: If you suffer from any severe chronic disease then the flu vaccine is recommended as in many cases further infection can severely exacerbate an existing condition. Examples of conditions that fall into this category include: Diabetes, stroke, chronic kidney/liver/respiratory/heart disease, TIA, post-polio syndrome.
  • Pregnant women: It is now recommended that all pregnant women be given the flu vaccine. Recent studies have proven that the jab is perfectly safe in the pregnant population, and pregnant women are at risk of complications should they suffer a flu infections.
  • Long stay-residences: Anyone in residential care facilities for extended periods of time should get a flu vaccination because of the risk of the flu spreading within such an environment.
  • Children: By 2014 children between 2 and 17 years of age should receive an annual flu vaccine in the form of a nasal spray. This should drastically reduce the transmission of the virus and prevent epidemics like the swine flu outbreak of 2009.

Who shouldn’t have the flu jab?

The seasonal flu jab is designed to be extremely safe, which is why it can be used on sensitive populations like pregnant women and the immunocompromised. However there are some contraindications for its use. If you have ever had an allergic reaction to a flu jab you won’t be suitable for the vaccine.

If you have experienced serious egg allergies in the past or shown any kind of sensitivity to egg or egg products you might not be suitable for the standard flu jab. The vaccine is made by preparing strains of flu virus in chicken eggs, and therefore exposure to the vaccine can trigger an egg allergy. Your GP might be able to arrange an egg-free vaccine if necessary, and if you do need the vaccine because you belong to an at-risk group, then might be referred to a specialist if necessary.

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