This week the NHS has been campaigning at full tilt to persuade patients to get their flu jabs.
I hope those of you with long term conditions, or other health issues which make you eligible for a free flu jab, were contacted by your GP surgery and have been, or plan to go, for yours. We’ve particularly aimed the messages at mums-to-be this year and encouraged them to protect themselves and their unborn baby from flu. And if you’re pregnant don’t forget you can protect your baby from whooping cough by having the vaccine at the same time as the flu vaccination.
Now, I know there are lots of myths flying around about flu – I hear lots of them in surgery, but the fact is that having the flu jab WILL NOT GIVE YOU FLU. It might make you feel a bit iffy (not a medical term) for a few hours and sometimes the arm the vaccine went into will be a bit stiff and sore, but neither of these compare with the nastiness of a bout of flu, or the danger to anyone with a weakened immune system.
Flu can be a killer. The vaccine can either completely protect you from flu or make it less severe – it depends a bit on how well the vaccine matches the strains of flu that appear each winter. The strains in the vaccine can only ever be a ‘best guess’ based on lots of information from flu outbreaks in previous years. Just remember that the flu virus mutates and changes year on year, making it a tricky customer to deal with. But plain logic suggests that if fewer people are infected then there is less risk of passing it on to others.
A lot of the misunderstandings about the flu vaccine were aired on mumsnet recently and answered by Dr Cathy Read, flu expert at the Department of Health, and Dr Richard Pebody, influenza lead at the Health Protection Agency. The discussion is worth a read even if you’re not pregnant.
And finally, for those of you who think Doctors can’t take their own medicine… here I am getting my flu jab. This is not a mocked up photo! Look after yourselves.