Not just the flu: A message from Gill May, Director of Nursing and Quality

It’s no exaggeration to say that this year has been dominated entirely by coronavirus.

Each and every one of us have been affected by the emergence of this new and somewhat unpredictable entity, and we have all had to go to great lengths to keep ourselves and our families safe.

Whether it’s been wearing a mask, washing our hands more or keeping our distance from those we would normally throw our arms around, these difficult adjustments have been a necessity in recent times.

But what’s also necessary as we approach winter is our awareness of flu.

This nasty virus is often dismissed as ‘just the flu’ but it can cause real harm, even among the healthiest of people.

The steps we’re taking to prevent the spread of coronavirus will also work against flu, but the getting the flu vaccine is still the most effective form of protection.

More people than ever before have been invited to get the flu vaccine this year, and it’s important that as many as possible do.

If you’re reading this and still unsure about the process of getting flu vaccine, these questions and answers should hopefully provide some insight.

Is it free to have the flu vaccine?

Flu is likely to have a more serious impact on those who are classed as vulnerable and, for these people, the vaccine is free.

This includes, but is not limited to, people over the age of 65, pregnant women, any person with a pre-existing respiratory condition and those with weakened immune systems.

Under new plans to keep as many people as possible healthy throughout winter, the offer of a free flu vaccine has now been extended to all people aged between 50 and 64.

Where is the flu vaccine available from?

Flu jabs provided on the NHS to people who are classed as vulnerable will be available from GP practices and community pharmacies.

Paid-for flu jabs, for people who do not fall into any of the vulnerable categories, can also be obtained from pharmacies, as well as high street chemists and some larger supermarkets.

Why is it difficult to get a vaccine at the moment?

With everybody now thinking more about staying healthy, demand for flu vaccinations has risen.

While this is a clearly good thing, as it shows more people are being proactive with their wellbeing, it does mean some are having to wait longer than usual for a flu vaccine appointment.

As is always the case, those people with the greatest need will be offered the flu vaccine first. This process cannot be done overnight and traditionally takes several weeks.

The flu season runs until March and more appointment slots will become available as stocks are replenished.

Will the flu vaccine protect me from coronavirus?

Unfortunately, not.

Although coronavirus is similar to flu, the two viruses are different, and the current vaccine has been designed to only protect against specific strains of the flu virus.

However, it is still well worth getting the flu vaccine, as studies show that it is possible to be infected with both flu and coronavirus at the same time.