How effective is the flu vaccine?

Most years it provides a 70 to 90 percent probability of complete protection. This is the best defense available against the flu.

Can the flu jab cause the flu?

Absolutely not. The vaccine contains no live flu virus so it is impossible for it to give you the flu.

How does the vaccine work?

The vaccine contains inactivated virus that enables your immune system to make antibodies. These protect it against the strains of the virus predicted by the World Health Organisation as the most likely to hit the UK.

How long does the vaccine take to work?

Protection develops about a week after receiving the vaccine.

Are there any side effects from having the jab?

Side effects are extremely uncommon. Some people may feel some slight soreness in their arm where they have had the injection. Occasionally a slight temperature or headache 24 hours after the jab may be experienced.

Does the vaccine protect against colds?

No, the viruses that cause colds are different from the ones that cause flu. But the effects of flu at home and at work are far worse than a cold, so it is good to be as protected as possible.

What is flu?

Flu – or to give it its proper name influenza – is a highly infectious virus which affects your respiratory tract (nose, throat and lungs). Symptoms include headache, high fever, chills, sore throat, aching muscles and joints and a dry cough. For most people the flu lasts for about a week and can leave them feeling very tired for some time after. Occasionally complications develop in at-risk groups and some people are ill for longer, and need hospital care.

Can anyone catch the flu?

Yes, no matter how fit and healthy the individual is, they can end up in bed with the flu.

Can you avoid catching the flu?

The flu virus is very infectious, so if there is an outbreak, it can be hard to avoid unless you have natural immunity to it. The most effective way to avoid the flu is to get vaccinated, which offers around 70 to 90 percent protection. Handwashing and trapping coughs and sneezes in your handkerchief will also help avoid the spread of infection.

Will having the jab hurt?

Discomfort is minimal. The injection is given in the upper arm via a small needle and only takes a couple of seconds to administer. The jab is given by a highly qualified nurse and your staff member will be back at their desk within minutes.

Does having the jab protect you for life?

No. Unfortunately, you have to be vaccinated yearly as the flu virus is constantly changing, so each year the virus is slightly different.

Should anyone not have the flu jab?

You should not be vaccinated: if you have had an allergic reaction to a previous flu vaccine or if you have a serious allergy to hens’ eggs; if you are allergic to certain antibiotics (but allergy to penicillin or erythromycin is NOT a problem). Flu vaccine is safe in pregnancy, and is recommended by the Department of Health.

Does the NHS provide flu jabs?

Yes, but it focuses its effort on specific groups such as the over 65s. Healthy working adults only receive a flu vaccine if provided by their employer or if they choose to pay for it privately.

Is there a vaccine shortage?

No. A shortage is not currently forecast. The NHS has advised that adequate supplies are available. Our Flu Fighters campaign complements the NHS programme as the more people who are protected, the fewer people there are to pass on the virus to family, friends and the wider community – this is called ‘herd immunity’.

What is Bird AND Swine flu?

Influenza is a family of viruses which affect humans, pigs and birds, producing the illness “flu”, which is of variable severity. Swine flu and Bird Flu are variants. Swine flu does not normally affect humans, but this particular strain has crossed into humans and caused the recent trouble. Pig to human spread is usually limited to rural and farming communities. However, when human to human spread occurs, then the range and speed of transmission  increases enormously and hence creates a lot of trouble. In 2015, the seasonal flu shot will also protect against swine flu.

What is a flu epidemic?

A flu epidemic is when a high proportion of people get influenza – often as a result of a significant change in the flu virus. Flu epidemics tend to happen every few years in the UK.

What is a flu pandemic?

A flu pandemic occurs when a major change to the flu virus emerges, for which worldwide, patients have little defense. During the 20th century there were three flu pandemics, including the Spanish flu which is estimated to have infected half the world population, killing some 30 million people.

Where can I get more information?

There are number of websites that provide information and advice:

To book call 0845 521 0030 and let Flu Fighters help defend your organisation.