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The Flu Jab – Why It’s So Important To Get Vaccinated This Year

Posted by Guest Post on October 20, 2020

the image shows a doctor giving someone the flu jab

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

I’ve been working as a doctor in A&E for six years. I’m now at the stage in my training where I look after the department at night with a handful of junior doctors. 

Working night shifts, where the decisions you make can affect the lives of almost every patient that comes through the department, is exhausting. I can make hundreds of decisions a night. Nearly every patient seen in the department will be discussed with me to make sure that they are getting the best care possible. Typically, at the end of that, I drive the short ten minutes home, crawl up the stairs, and collapse into bed. 

At the end of a recent shift however, I was asked if I wanted to get the flu jab. My immediate reaction? Well, to be honest, it was something like; “No way! I am NOT standing in line for fifteen minutes, waiting to be stabbed by a needle.” I really just wanted to go to bed. What did I do? I stayed for my flu jab. I lined up and got the 2-second injection into my arm, before driving home.

I get the flu jab every year. I work in an environment where I am very likely to be exposed to the flu, and it is a nasty illness. Although it is uncommon, the flu can cause severe pneumonia even in people in their thirties (my age bracket). But beyond that, if I did get it, I could spread the flu to the vulnerable people that I work with.

I frequently hear people say, “I get sick every year after I have the flu jab, so I stopped getting it.” The reason for this may be inflammation caused by the jab itself, or the stimulation of the immune system. This response is actually desirable in a way because you are developing immunity to the virus. Also, actually being infected with the flu will be far worse than any response you could get to the vaccine.

You may have heard some people say that they actually get the flu directly from the vaccine. This simply is not true. They may have confused the initial reaction to the vaccine and thought they had the flu. They may also have had a different viral illness, coincidentally around the time of getting the vaccine.

Can you get the flu if you have had the vaccine? Yes, it isn’t 100% effective. Every year the vaccine is modified slightly so that it can work most effectively against the strains of flu that are circulating amongst people at the time.

Some years, the vaccine is more effective than others. Usually, the jab is upwards of 70% effective. This means that if everyone who is at risk of the flu has a jab, 70% of them will not get the infection, even if exposed to the flu virus. 

This is great because, in a way, this protects 30% of people who it doesn’t work on. The fewer people who have the infection, the less likely it is to spread.

This year, getting the flu jab is even more important. Not only will you be protecting yourself, but you will be safeguarding countless other people, and the health service. Remember that mantra? Stay home, protect the NHS, save lives. Well, now it’s get the vaccine, protect the NHS, save lives.

We may not have a vaccine against Coronavirus yet, but we do have a vaccine against the flu. 

Every winter I’ve worked in A&E, I have seen first-hand the immense pressure that hospitals come under. Even in a typical, normal winter, hospitals are full to the brim with people waiting along multiple corridors.

Now throw Coronavirus into that mix. Cases are on the rise again, and soon we will be seeing increased hospital admissions. We are also trying to play catch up with the health impacts of people being unable to see doctors or get routine care in the first wave earlier in the year. We are going to struggle. If everyone at risk got the flu jab, we could decrease hospital admissions for the flu. This could free up beds for other patients who will inevitably need care over winter.

So, what am I saying here? If you are someone who is at risk of getting seriously ill from the flu, then you should get the vaccine. You can find out if this is you by visiting the NHS webpage on the flu vaccineBy doing this, you will be protecting yourself and other people around you. You will be helping to alleviate the pressure on our health service over winter. You will be a part of the strategy to make sure that we have enough beds to treat sick people.

So, here is my next proposed slogan for the Government. Get the vaccine, protect the NHS, save lives. Because it really is that simple!