Flu Vaccine

Here are some frequently asked questions we get about the flu vaccine.

Influenza or Flu is a highly infectious and very common infection. Most flu outbreaks happen in late autumn or winter. There are many different strains of the flu virus. Symptoms of flu include, fever (high temperature), headaches, sore throat, weakness and exhaustion, all over aches and pains. Symptoms can last for up to 7 days and affects people of all ages. The advised treatment for the Flu is rest and staying hydrated – You may need to stay in bed until your symptoms improve.

 In some rare cases the winter flu can cause serious complications such as pneumonia.

The current vaccine is designed to protect against the viruses responsible for causing most cases of Flu. The flu vaccine helps your immune system to produce antibodies to the influenza virus. If you have been vaccinated and you come into contact with the virus, these antibodies will attack it and stop you from getting sick. The flu vaccine starts to work within two weeks. This is a convenient way to stay protected from flu.

Flu is more severe in people aged 50 years and over, pregnant women, and anyone with a long-term medical condition. The HSE is urging people in at-risk groups to get the flu vaccine.

The National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) has confirmed that at-risk patients are:

  • Persons aged 50 years and older;
  • Persons 6 months – 69 years old with a chronic illness requiring regular follow up, e.g. chronic respiratory disease (including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cystic fibrosis, moderate or severe asthma and bronchopulmonary dysplasia), chronic heart disease (including acute coronary syndrome), chronic renal failure, diabetes mellitus, haemoglobinopathies, chronic liver disease, chronic neurological disease (including multiple sclerosis and hereditary and degenerative disorders of the central nervous system);
  • Those who are immunosuppressed due to disease or treatment including those with missing or nonfunctioning spleens;
  • All cancer patients;
  • Patients with any condition that can compromise respiratory function, e.g. spinal cord injury, seizure
    or other neuromuscular disorder, especially those attending special schools or day centres;
  • Children and adults with Down syndrome;
  • Those with morbid obesity, i.e. body mass index over 40;
  • All pregnant women at any stage of pregnancy (QIV only);
  • Healthcare workers;
  • Residents of nursing homes and other long-stay institutions;
  • Carers;
  • Household contacts of at-risk persons;
  • Out-of-home care givers to at-risk persons;
  • People with regular contact with pigs, poultry or water fowl.

In addition, in relation to children:

  • Children with moderate to severe neurodevelopment disorders such as cerebral palsy and intellectual disability;
  • Children on long-term aspirin (because of Reye’s syndrome).
  • Are 65 years of age and over.
  • Are pregnant.
  • Have a long term-health condition* / considered an at-risk group.
  • Work in healthcare or are a carer.
  • Live in a nursing home or other long-term care facility.
  • In regular contact with pigs, poultry or water-fowl.

* Long Term Health conditions include:

Chronic heart disease, including acute coronary syndrome, chronic liver disease, chronic renal failure, chronic respiratory disease, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cystic fibrosis, moderate or severe asthma or bronchopulmonary dysplasia, chronic neurological disease including multiple sclerosis, hereditary and degenerative disorders of the central nervous system, diabetes mellitus, down syndrome, haemoglobinopathies, morbid obesity i.e. body mass index (BMI) over 40, immunosuppression due to disease or treatment (including treatment for cancer).

You should not receive the vaccine if you have had a previous severe allergic reaction to the vaccine or to any of its constituents.
  • If you are currently on a combination of checkpoint inhibitors as it may cause a potential immune related adverse reaction.
  • Postpone vaccination if you have a current infection or fever.

Sometimes people develop side effects after vaccination, these are generally mild and will disappear after 24-48 hours. The most common side effects include, soreness, redness or swelling at the site of injection, headache, fever aches, feeling un-well, shivering, fatigue, sweating, muscle and joint pain. Rare reactions include severe allergic reactions, nerve pain and inflammation, tingling, fits, thrombocytopenia (a blood disorder), rare nerve disorders and possible inflammation of the blood vessels. Seek medical advice if you experience any of these symptoms.

Being vaccinated is likely to provide effective protection against this year’s strain of the winter flu virus, however, there still may be a small chance of you catching the flu. After vaccination it takes 10-21 days to be protected against flu. The vaccination is not a live vaccine. You cannot catch flu from the vaccine. Blood tests for HIV, Hepatitis C and HTL1V should not be taken for two weeks after vaccination because there is the possibility of a false positive reading. On rare occasions, anaphylaxis may occur. Anaphylaxis is a rare but serious allergic reaction. Symptoms include, an itchy rash, swelling of the eyes, lips, throat, drop in blood pressure. If this should happen we have procedures in place to deal with this. If you are concerned about any aspects of the vaccination service or side-effects, talk to your pharmacist immediately. Cancer patients should receive the vaccine annually. It is recommended that the vaccine be given 2 weeks or more prior to chemotherapy. If the vaccine has to be given during chemotherapy (and chemo treatment finishes in the same influenza season) a second vaccine is required, a minimum of 4 weeks after the first vaccine.

If you have had a solid organ transplant or a haematopoietic stem cell transplant 2 doses of influenza vaccine will be given, 4 weeks apart if receiving the vaccine for the first time post-transplant.

At Kennelly’s Pharmacy we provide a Winter Flu Vaccination Service to support businesses throughout the region. Our Flu Vaccination Service is an easy and very cost-effective way to protect your workforce and your business from the effects of the Winter cold and flu.

Our programme is designed to help protect your workforce against the spread of flu, helping to maintain your business’s productivity during the flu season, as well as another great way to being committed to the well-being of your workforce. Kennelly’s Pharmacy can provide your employees with the flu vaccine at our special corporate rate.

95% of all short-term absences from work are caused by minor illnesses such as colds and flu – which on average costs employers an average of €818 per employee per year.

(Source: Employee Absenteeism – A guide to managing absenteeism IBEC Aug 2011).