Flu vaccine FAQ’s

Frequently Asked Questions about the Flu Vaccine:

What is influenza (flu)?

How serious is flu?

How do people catch flu?

What are the symptoms of flu?

Is it seasonal flu or the common cold?

Who is most at risk from flu?

How can flu be prevented?

What is the seasonal (annual) flu vaccine?

What strains are in this year’s seasonal flu vaccine?

Who should be vaccinated?

How does seasonal flu vaccine work?

How effective is seasonal flu vaccine?

What is Swine Flu?

How long is the flu season?

How safe is flu vaccine?

Is there thiomersal in the seasonal flu vaccine?

Will the flu vaccine give me the flu?

When should I get vaccinated?

What should I expect after vaccination?

How long does it take the vaccine to work?

Who should NOT get seasonal flu vaccine?

What about people with egg allergy?

When should vaccination be postponed?

What about avian flu?

Does the seasonal flu vaccine protect against avian flu?

Where can I find out more?

What is influenza?

Influenza is a highly infectious acute respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. Influenza affects people of all ages. Outbreaks of influenza occur almost every year, usually in winter. This is why it is also known as seasonal flu

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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 a number of mainly older people die from influenza each winter.

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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.

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What are the symptoms of Flu?

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

  1. sudden fever
  2. chills
  3. headache
  4. myalgia (muscle pain)
  5. sore throat
  6. non-productive dry cough

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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.

Table of Symptoms

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

Symptoms of Seasonal Flu Cold
Symptom Duration Frequency
Fever High fever lasts 3-4 days Rare
General Aches Pains Usual Often severe or slight
Fatigue Weakness Can last up to 2-3 weeks Quite mild
Extreme Exhaustion Early and prominent Never
Stuffy Nose Sometimes Common
Sneezing Sometimes Common
Sore Throat Sometimes Common
Chest Discomfort Cough Common can be severe Mild to moderate Hacking cough

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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 (including those undergoing cancer treatment). Pregnant women have also been found to be at increased risk of the complications of flu. Also, residents of nursing homes and other long stay institutions, healthcare workers, carers and persons with a body mass index (BMI) of over 40 are most at risk. Finally people with regular close contact with poultry, water fowl or pigs are also more at risk of contracting influenza. These groups of people are targeted for influenza vaccination.

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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.

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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. This year’s flu vaccine contains the Swine Flu strain.

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What strains are in this year’s seasonal flu vaccine?

This year’s seasonal flu vaccine contains 3 strains of flu viruses as recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) and has been manufactured in a similar way to previous seasonal vaccine. The three strains are:

  • A/Michigan/45/2015 (H1N1)pdm09 – like strain (A/Michigan/45/2015, NYMC X-275) 15 micrograms
  • A/Singapore/INFIMH-16-0019/2016 (H3N2)-like strain (A/Singapore/INFIMH-16-0019/2016, NIB-104) 15 micrograms
  • B/Colorado/06/2017-like strain (B/Victoria/2/87 lineage) (B/Maryland/15/2016, NYMC BX-69A) 15 micrograms

per 0.5ml dose

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Who should be vaccinated?

Vaccination is strongly recommended for:

  • persons 65 and over
  • those with a long-term medical condition such as diabetes, heart or lung disease
  • people whose immune system is impaired due to disease or treatment (including those undergoing cancer treatment).
  • healthcare workers
  • residents of nursing homes and other long stay institutions
  • persons with a body mass index (BMI) over 40
  • pregnant women. (can be given at any stage of pregnancy)
  • carers
  • people with regular close contact with poultry, water fowl or pigs

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How does the seasonal flu vaccine work?

The 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.

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How effective is the seasonal flu vaccine?

Seasonal flu vaccine prevents flu illness in approximately 70% – 90% of people.

The effectiveness varies depending on the age and health of the person being vaccinated and the strains of flu virus that are circulating. Older persons and those with certain long term diseases have lower immune responses so the vaccine may not be as effective but it will still prevent severe illness and hospitalisation.

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What is Swine Flu?

Swine Flu is a new flu virus that first emerged in April 2009. As most people did not have any immunity against this virus it spread rapidly worldwide and infected a large number of people. It is also known as Pandemic H1N1 (2009). Swine Flu infected in particular young children, pregnant women, women up to 6 weeks after giving birth and those under 65 years with long term medical conditions.

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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 become pregnant at ant stage during the flu season should get flu vaccine.

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How safe is the 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. The seasonal flu vaccines cannot give you the flu.

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Is there thiomersal in the seasonal flu vaccine?

No. There is no thiomersal in the vaccine used in the 2017/2018 flu campaign

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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.

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“When should I get vaccinated?

The vaccine should be given in late September/October each year to give yourself the best chance of preventing the annual flu.

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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.

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How long does it take for the vaccine to work?

The vaccine starts to work within two weeks.

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Who should NOT get the 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.

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What about people with egg allergy?

People with egg allergy can get seasonal flu vaccine. This may be given by your GP or you may need a referral to a hospital specialist.

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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.

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What about avian flu?

This is an infectious viral infection of birds and less commonly pigs.

Avian or bird flu due to the H5N1 virus has spread rapidly throughout poultry flocks in Asia and more recently to Eastern Europe. It is proving difficult to eradicate in birds.

Humans are rarely affected with avian/bird flu and this has mainly happened through close contact with live infected birds or their faeces.

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Does the seasonal flu vaccine protect against avian flu?

Seasonal flu vaccine doesn’t protect against avian influenza and there is no vaccine currently licensed against avian influenza.

Remember

If you are over 65 or have a long term medical condition you should also ask us about the pneumococcal vaccine which protects against pneumonia, if you have not previously received it.

Keep well this winter

  • Eat well: eat at least one hot meal a day.
  • Keep warm: wear several layers when outside and keep at least one room heated during the day.
  • Keep active.
  • Get vaccinated.

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Where can I find out more?

You can download other information materials below for this years campaign.

http://www.ndsc.ie/hpsc/A-Z/VaccinePreventable/PneumococcalDisease/

Health Protection Surveillance Centre website http://www.hpsc.ie/hpsc/A-Z/Respiratory/Influenza/

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine Preventable Diseases “The Pink Book-12th edition. April 2011 available at http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/pinkbook/index.html

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-Parents Guide to Childhood Immunization – 2010- available at http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/parents-guide/default.htm#pguide

Department of Health UK. Immunisation against infectious diseases “The Green Book”2006 and subsequent updates available at http://www.dh.gov.uk/en/Publichealth/Healthprotection/Immunisation/Greenbook/DH_4097254”

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