Why you should get your flu vaccine this year

Winter is drawing nearer - which means flu season is too.

COVID-19 means it's more important than ever for you to get your flu vaccine. We asked the experts at Public Health Wales about why it's so vital, and how you can get your free vaccine this winter.

 

Why is having a flu vaccine important for people aged 65 and over?

Annual flu vaccination is one of the most effective ways to protect against catching or spreading flu. Flu spreads easily and can cause serious complications, particularly in older people. In a typical year, thousands of people die from flu in the UK. Having a flu vaccine every year is very important as the strains of flu circulating changes from year to year and so the vaccine changes according to this.

You are eligible for a free flu vaccine if you will be aged 65 or over, before 31st March 2021.

 

Is there anyone who shouldn’t have a flu vaccine?

Very few people cannot have a flu vaccine.

If you’ve ever had a serious allergic reaction to a flu vaccine (or any part of it), you shouldn’t have that vaccine again. If you’re not sure if this applies to you - check with your nurse, doctor or community pharmacist. They will be able to advise you.

You should tell the person giving you the vaccine if you have any serious allergies, including serious egg allergy, before having your vaccine. You can still have a flu vaccine, but special arrangements may be needed.

If you’re unwell with a high temperature, delay having the vaccine until you feel better.

 

Where can I get my flu vaccine?

You can get your flu vaccine at your local GP surgery or community pharmacy.

If you’re finding it difficult to get to your GP or community pharmacy, contact them to discuss how to get your vaccine.

Demand for flu vaccines this autumn is higher than we have seen in previous years, and it may take longer to get an appointment for a flu vaccination, so please be patient.

There are different types of flu vaccine available and some work better for different age groups. Vaccine is delivered in batches over several weeks. This means that some people may be offered a flu vaccine if it is available and others will be asked to wait until the best vaccine based on their age is in stock. It is better to wait and get the right vaccine for you so that you get the most benefit from it. 

 

Is it safe to visit a GP or community pharmacy to have a flu vaccine?

This year flu vaccines will be administered following the current guidance around social distancing, infection control and personal protective equipment (PPE), to help keep you safe. Arrangements may be different because of COVID-19. For the latest information, see www.beatflu.org.  At your appointment, you will likely notice:

  • Increased PPE
  • Signposting to social distancing
  • Continuous disinfection of surfaces
  • Distanced seating arrangements

Getting a flu vaccine is considered an important medical appointment, so it is fine to attend even if there are lockdown restrictions in place.

Unless you are exempt, a face covering should be worn when attending for your flu vaccine.

 

Can someone accompany me to my flu vaccine appointment, if I have difficulty with mobility?

We are asking people to attend appointments alone at the moment if possible, as this will help to reduce the number of people in healthcare settings to enable us to stay safe and keep apart.

If, however, you need someone to accompany you, it is advisable to speak to a member of the team beforehand.

 

Can I get the flu vaccine under COVID-19 firebreak restrictions?

Yes. Going for your flu vaccine appointment is an important reason to leave your home during the firebreak.

 

How will I feel after I have my flu vaccine?

After having a flu vaccine injection some people also feel tired, have a headache, or have aching muscles for a day or two. Your arm may be a bit red and sore.

A post vaccination fever is a common and expected reaction to any vaccine. It may cause a mild fever which usually resolves within 24-48 hours for most vaccines.

A post vaccination fever does not require self-isolation or COVID-19 testing unless there are other symptoms suggestive of COVID-19 infection i.e. a high fever (37.8°C or above), a new continuous cough and a loss of taste or smell. More information on COVID -19 symptoms and management may be found here.

Any fever after vaccination should be monitored, and if you are concerned about your health after receiving a vaccine, you should seek advice by phoning NHS Direct Wales on 111, or your GP.

 

What should I do if I think I have the flu?

Some COVID-19 symptoms are similar to flu so if you think you might have flu or COVID-19, it is important to isolate at home, check the latest advice and follow the current COVID-19 guidelines.

If you think you might have flu it is important to rest at home, keep warm and drink plenty of water. You can take paracetamol or ibuprofen to lower a high temperature and relieve aches if necessary. 

To help stop flu spreading, remember to:

  • Catch it – use tissues to catch your cough or sneeze
  • Bin it – dispose of your tissue as soon as possible
  • Kill it – clean your hands as soon as you can

People in high risk groups should speak to their doctor if they have flu-like-symptoms promptly as their doctor may wish to prescribe antiviral medicines.

Find out more about the flu programme in Wales at www.beatflu.org, and about flu on the NHS website.