Flu is an unpredictable virus that can be unpleasant, but if a person is otherwise healthy it will usually clear up on its own within a week. However, if a person has an underlying health condition or does not have a robust immune system, a flu virus can pose life-threatening risks. Certain people are more likely to develop potentially serious complications of flu, such as bronchitis and pneumonia, explained the NHS. For certain people, a flu jab is therefore necessary to offset the risks.
A person may also be able to have the flu vaccine at their GP surgery
According to the NHS, the injected flu vaccine is offered free of charge on the NHS to people who are at risk. This is to help protect them against catching flu and developing serious complications.
A person should have the flu vaccine if they:
- Are 65 years old or over
- Are pregnant
- Have certain medical conditions
- Are living in a long-stay residential care home or other long-stay care facility
- Receive a carer’s allowance, or are the main carer for an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if they fall ill
“Frontline health and social care workers are also eligible to receive the flu vaccine. It is an employer’s responsibility to arrange and pay for this vaccine,” said the NHS.
According to the health body, a person may also be able to have the flu vaccine at their GP surgery or a local pharmacy offering the service if they’re a frontline health or social care worker employed by a:
- Registered residential care/nursing home
- Registered homecare organisation
The flu vaccine is also free on the NHS for:
- Children over the age of 6 months with a long-term health condition
- Children aged two and three years on 31 August 2019 – that is, born between 11 September 2015 and 31 August 2017
- Children in primary school
- People may experience side effects of vaccination, but they are usually mild and do not last long, noted the health body.
The most common side effects of vaccination include:
- The area where the needle goes in looking red, swollen and feeling a bit sore for two to three days
- Babies or young children feeling a bit unwell or developing a high temperature for one or two days
What vaccines are available?
In the UK, the following vaccines are routinely offered free of charge by the NHS:
- Six-in-one Vaccine
- Rotavirus Vaccine
- Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV)
- MenB Vaccine
- Hib/MenC Vaccine
- MMR Vaccine
- Nasal Flu Vaccine
- Pre-school Booster
- HPV Vaccine
- Teenage Booster
- MenACWY Vaccine
- Inactivated Flu Vaccine
- Shingles Vaccine
- Pneumococcal Polysaccharide Vaccine (PPV)
- Pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine in pregnancy
- Flu vaccine in pregnancy
The following vaccines are offered free of charge to people in particular risk groups:
- Hepatitis A Vaccine to protect people who are at risk from hepatitis A infection
- Hepatitis B Vaccine to protect babies and other people who are at risk from hepatitis B infection
- Chickenpox (Varicella) Vaccine to protect contacts of people who are at risk from chickenpox infection
- TB (tuberculosis) vaccine (the BCG vaccine) to protect those who are at risk from TB infection
Why vaccines are so important
As the NHS explained, vaccinations prevent up to three million deaths worldwide every year. Vaccines teach a person’s immune system how to create antibodies that protect them from diseases.
It’s much safer for a person’s immune system to learn this through vaccination than by catching the diseases and treating them.
Once a person’s immune system knows how to fight a disease, it can often protect them for many years.
Having a vaccine also benefits a whole community through “herd immunity,” explained the health site.
If enough people are vaccinated, it’s harder for the disease to spread to those people who cannot have vaccines, noted the health body.
“For example, people who are ill or have a weakened immune system,” it said.
However, unlike vaccination, herd immunity does not give a high level of individual protection, and so it is not a good alternative to getting vaccinated, cautioned the Vaccine Knowledge Project.
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