Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

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Flu facts

For the majority of people who catch it, flu is unpleasant, but for some it can lead to chest infections, severe complications and death. Globally, seasonal flu accounts for about three to five million causes of severe illness annually and between 250,000 and 500,000 deaths.

The flu vaccine is safe

The risk of having a serious (anaphylactic) reaction to the seasonal flu vaccine is less than one in a million: much lower than the risk of getting seriously ill from having the flu itself.

The flu jab can’t give you the flu

It is impossible to get flu from the having the flu jab because the vaccine doesn’t contain live viruses.

The side effects of the vaccination aren’t bad

For the most part, seasonal flu vaccine side effects are mild or often non-existent. The most common side effect is soreness around the site of the injection and occasionally aching muscles, but this is simply the immune system responding to the vaccine. These symptoms are a lot less serious than having flu.

Health professionals need to protect patients

Vaccination isn’t just about keeping yourself safe, it’s about protecting your colleagues, your family and your patients. You can carry and pass the virus on to others without having any symptoms yourself, so even if you consider yourself healthy, you might be risking the lives of others.

Vaccination works

The World Health Organization cites clean water and vaccination as the two interventions that have the greatest impact on public health – vaccination works. Trivalent seasonal influenza vaccines generally give 50% - 60% per cent protection against infection.

In 2014/15 the flu vaccine only provided limited protection against infection caused by one particular strain of flu A (H3N2) Caused by a mismatch between the A(H3N2) strain selected for the vaccine and the main A(H3N2) strain that circulated
Throughout the last decade, there has generally been a good match between the strains of flu in the vaccine and those that subsequently circulated
Several different viruses in community and 3 or 4 strains in vaccine; there will be some protection against other types
Flu vaccination remains the best way to protect people from flu
Pregnant women can be vaccinated

Pregnant women can have the flu vaccination at any stage of their pregnancy. Having the vaccination when pregnant is beneficial and helps protect the baby from flu over the first few months of life.

Healthy diets won’t prevent flu

Your diet could well be helping to boost your immune system, but eating well will not protect you from flu. The best way to protect yourself, family and patients against flu is by getting the flu jab.

Handwashing is very important, but it won’t stop flu

It is vital to follow universal infection prevention procedures and wash your hands, but once flu has been passed on to your family, colleagues or your patients, clean hands won’t keep flu at bay. Book your flu jab as soon as possible, and encourage those around you to do the same.

Anyone can get the flu

One of the most common reasons for not getting vaccinated is “I’ve never had flu before”. There’s no such thing as natural immunity to influenza; with new strains circulating this year, it’s best to get vaccinated against flu.