Useful information you may need and not want to talk about

Flu Vaccination

Influenza (Flu) is a highly infectious acute respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. It affects people of all ages. Outbreaks of the flu occur almost every year, usually in the winter and is therefore also referred to as seasonal flu. For older people and those who have a chronic illness, flu can cause severe illness and can even be life threatening. All those at risk should get the flu vaccine every year to make sure that they are protected.

Seasonal flu vaccine helps the person's immune system to produce antibodies to the flu virus. When someone who has been vaccinated comes into contact with the virus these antibodies attack the virus.

In all McCartan’s Pharmacy branches, Our pharmacists have completed comprehensive training and are certified to safely administer the annual flu vaccination to children and adults. This years (2020/2021) vaccination service was free to all patients in the at-risk categories. At-risk patients are highly recommended to avail of the free vaccination to help reduce the spread of the flu in the community and to help cut associated risks to mortality/morbidity.

Those in the at-risk categories are:

  • Persons aged 65 and over
  • Those aged 6 months and older with a long-term health condition such as
    • Chronic heart disease (this includes anyone who has a history of having a "heart attack" or unstable angina)
    • Chronic liver disease
    • Chronic renal failure
    • Chronic respiratory disease, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cystic fibrosis, moderate or severe asthma or bronchopulmonary dysplasia
    • Chronic neurological disease including multiple sclerosis, hereditary and degenerative disorders of the central nervous system
    • Diabetes mellitus
    • Down syndrome
    • Haemoglobinopathies
    • Morbid obesity i.e. body mass index over 40
    • Immunosuppression due to disease or treatment (these include anyone on treatment for cancer)
  • Children aged 6 months and older
    • with any condition that can affect lung function especially those attending special schools/day centres with cerebral palsy or intellectual disability
    • on long-term aspirin therapy (because of the risk of Reyes syndrome)
  • Pregnant women (vaccine can be given at any stage of pregnancy)
  • Healthcare workers
  • Residents of nursing homes and other long stay institutions
  • Carers (the main carers of those in the at risk groups)
  • People with regular contact with pigs, poultry or water fowl.

 Booking a vaccination 

 Frequently Asked Questions about the Seasonal Flu

How serious is flu?

Flu is often self limiting with most people recovering in 2-7 days. However, flu can be severe and can cause serious illness and death, especially in the very young and in the elderly. Serious respiratory complications can develop, including pneumonia and bronchitis, to which older people and those with certain chronic medical conditions are particularly susceptible. Pregnant women have also been found to be at increased risk of the complications of flu. Some people may need hospital treatment and between 200 and 500 people, mainly older people, die from influenza each winter.

How do people catch flu?

Flu is a highly infectious illness. A person carrying the virus can spread the illness by coughing or sneezing. A person can spread the virus from 1-2 days before they develop symptoms and for up to a week after symptoms develop.

What are the symptoms of Flu?

Flu symptoms hit you suddenly and severely. Symptoms of flu include

 

  • sudden fever,
  • chills,
  • headache,
  • myalgia (muscle pain),
  • sore throat, non-productive dry cough.

 

Is it seasonal flu or the common cold?

It can be difficult at times to tell between the common cold and flu. A cold is a much less severe illness than flu. The flu symptoms come on suddenly with fevers and muscle aches. A cold usually starts gradually with symptoms of a sore throat and a blocked or runny nose.

The following table provides information on how to distinguish between seasonal flu and cold symptoms

 

Symptoms Seasonal Flu Cold
Fever High fever lasts 3-4 days Rare
Headache Prominent Rare
General Aches, Pains Usual; often severe Slight
Fatigue, Weakness Can last up to 2-3 weeks Quite Mild
Extreme Exhaustion Early and prominent Never
Stuffy Nose Sometimes Common
Sneezing Sometimes Usual
Sore Throat Sometimes Common
Chest Discomfort, Cough Common; can become severe Mild to moderate; hacking cough

 

Who is most at risk from flu?

Anyone can get the flu but it is more severe in people aged 65 years and over and anyone with a chronic medical condition. Chronic medical conditions include chronic heart conditions, chronic respiratory disease, diabetes mellitus and immunosupression due to disease or treatment. Pregnant women have also been found to be at increased risk of the complications of flu. These groups of people are targeted for influenza vaccination.

How can flu be prevented?

Flu can be prevented by vaccination. Flu vaccine is a safe, effective way to help prevent flu infection, avoiding hospitalisation, reducing flu related deaths and illnesses.

What is the seasonal (annual) flu vaccine?

Each year the seasonal (annual) flu vaccine contains three common influenza virus strains. The flu virus changes each year this is why a new flu vaccine has to be given each year.

How does seasonal flu vaccine work?

Seasonal flu vaccine helps the person's immune system to produce antibodies to the flu virus. When someone who has been vaccinated comes into contact with the virus these antibodies attack the virus.

How long is the flu season?

In the Northern hemisphere the flu season lasts from October to the end of April. Flu vaccine is recommended for all those in the at risk groups until the end of April. Women who are pregnant at any stage during the flu season should get flu vaccine.

How safe is flu vaccine?

Seasonal flu vaccines have been given for more than 60 years to millions of people across the world. Reactions are generally mild and serious side effects are very rare.

Will the flu vaccine give me the flu?

No, flu vaccine will not give you the flu. Flu vaccine contains killed or inactivated viruses and therefore cannot cause flu. It does, however, take 10 - 14 days for the vaccine to start protecting against flu.

When should I get vaccinated?

The vaccine should be given in late September/October each year.

What should I expect after vaccination?

The most common side effects will be mild and will include soreness, redness or swelling where the injection was given. Headache, fever, aches and tiredness may occur. Some people may experience mild sweating and shivering as their immune system responds to the vaccine but this is not flu and will pass in a day or so.

How long does it take the vaccine to work?

The vaccine starts to work within two weeks.

Who should NOT get seasonal flu vaccine?

The vaccine should not be given to those with a history of severe allergic (anaphylaxis) reaction to a previous dose of the vaccine or any of its constituents.

When should vaccination be postponed?

There are very few reasons why vaccination should be postponed. Vaccination should be re-scheduled if you have an acute illness with a temperature greater than 38°C.