/ Health

Achoo! Does the flu jab need a publicity injection?

As our freak heat wave comes to an end, the dreaded colds and flu will soon follow. Sneezes are already starting to resound around offices, homes, schools, and public transport. So will you be getting a flu jab?

Influenza is not to be sniffed at (sorry). Though many of us declare flu at the mere sound of a sniffle (guilty as charged), full blown (sorry again) flu is no fun. When I had flu in 2000, I was bed-bound and borderline delirious for a week.

NHS Choices has a good “what’s the difference” video, but in essence, flu comes on suddenly, gives you a very high temperature, headache, tiredness and general aches and pains.

On the other hand, the common cold (am I the only person who’d like a posh cold once in a while?) is more about the runny nose, cough and sneezes (“bless you”). However, both are highly infectious and spread rapidly.

The risk of influenza

While a cold may only make you think you’re going to die (I do a good line in melodrama) flu can be very serious for the very old, very young and those with underlying health conditions. Complications, such as bronchitis or pneumonia, are more common in these at-risk people.

And some strains are particularly virulent, such as those that combine with viruses from other animals (most notably pigs and birds), due to our bodies not having immunity to these strains when they first appear. Around 600 people die each year from seasonal flu – during a pandemic this will increase.

While there are only three main flu virus types (Type A, Type B and Type C) the viruses mutate, so a new vaccine is needed each and every year. Which is why those at risk require a flu jab on a yearly basis.

Do we need a national flu jab campaign?

I recently saw that the Department of Health’s flu jab information campaign will not materialise for a second year running. Senior doctors are up in arms at the news. They feel it’s negligent and could lead to those at-risk groups not getting a jab, potentially leading to greater numbers of complications and even deaths. While a campaign would be a good idea, I can see that the cost versus overall benefit might be prohibitive.

I’m very proactive about getting my jab and personally feel there are plenty of opportunities for people to be reminded about getting it. I’m reminded at my annual asthma check and there are always posters in the local pharmacy or my GP surgery if I forget. My GP also has a message to their phone on-hold system.

Moreover, with news stories about potential cold cures at two a penny, or if swine or bird flu looks like even a small risk of becoming an epidemic or pandemic, the media tends to do the campaign for free.

So do you think there should be a national campaign to remind people to get their flu jab? Or do you think GP surgeries should simply contact the people who are at risk? Perhaps you think we shouldn’t need reminding at all?


I’m not in a “high risk” group but have been used to getting a flu jab at work for the last umpteen years.
Having retired I can no longer get one – my GP’s surgery says that stocks are limited and only for “high risk” groups and wont give me one privately either which seems a missed opportunity.

Phil says:
4 October 2011

My employer used to provide them for free but stopped a couple of years ago. My doctor won’t provide them to non-risk groups either but for the last two years I’ve got mine from an independent pharmacy and last year from the pharmacy at the local supermarket.


Thanks Phil for that useful info – never thought of looking at supermarket pharmacies , and amazed how cheap the jab was
So the “general shortage of vaccine” quote is a myth !


Yes, I just saw today that Asda is doing flu jabs for £7!

Phil says:
6 October 2011

My pleasure. I get the impression a lot of people think you can only get a flu jab from a doctor and don’t realise that any licensed pharmacy, including those in supermarkets, can provide one.

I believe what happens is that GPs get an allocation every year from the DoH for the elderly and vulnerable but if they have any left over they can give them out on a first come first served basis. That’s certainly what seems to happen at my local surgery.


If there is evidence that flu jabs work then everyone should be offered them without charge. The best way of protecting those at risk is to ensure that they don’t come into contact with anyone with flu.

A lot of working time is lost through illness, so that is another reason to offer the flu jab to everyone.


Had read flu vaccines contain dissolved aluminium and other impurities that’s not good for you.

Have you wondered why your own GP and much of the front-line medical and nursing staff at NHS hospitals do NOT take such jabs.

Standing corrected in what I say and as to the above, there is a strong body of medical opinion in America that takes the view flu jabs should not be given freely to all, particularly those with a poor immune system. Check it out at mercola.com……


The US Alzheimer’s Association reckons that the danger of aluminium in flu jabs is a myth:

I had never heard about Mercola.com but I suggest you read what Wikipedia has to say about Joseph Mercola. It is not good.

No-one is required to have a flu jab but everyone should be aware that seasonal kills people, as mentioned in the introduction, above. When I go for my flu jab I will ask the nurse if the practice staff have had their injections..


About 5/6 years ago I caught a bad dose of flu, but didn’t realise how bad it was until I was having difficulty breathing. My doctor came out right away and prescribed antibiotics, but it was too late as I had developed COPD (loss of lung capacity). I now have to take 3 different inhalers, and cannot walk very far or up a steep slope. The condition gets slightly worse each year, and cannot be reversed.
In my view the risk of having the flu jab is much less than what I went through !!!