Does everyone need a flu jab?

I'm just asking because I didn't get around to it last year and I don't think I suffered as a consequence and I need convincing it's worthwhile.

I know that we are encouraged to get a flu jab because of our compromised immunity (due to treatment), but there are so many variants of flu, does it really offer us protection?

In previous years, (including the time before I had vasculitis) after the flu jab, I have often felt worse than when I haven't had it done and I just wondered if anyone has done their homework and knows the real pro's and con's of having it?

Thank you.

39 Replies

  • Generally the flu jab offers a good rate of protection I believe, over 50% upwards versus flu infections in a year. This last year was unusual, because the flu strains that appeared were very different from those predicted. So the vaccine was less use.

    Generally immunosuppressed people are advised to get the vaccine, unless there is a good reason not to. Flu can make you seriously ill, or even die - it is that bad in terms of what it can do. And the risks of catching it while immunosuppressed are much higher.

    However there are some vasculitis people who are advised not to get it. This can be because (1) they are too heavily immunosuppressed to get protection (rare - we are talking a much higher combined dose of steroids and other drugs than people are usually on); or (2) they have had a flare or relapse in response to the vaccine in the past.

    I fall into both categories! Well I was in category 1 a few years ago, when I was on up to 5 immunosuppression drugs simultaneously - my consultant said it was as though they were treating me at cancer doses, permanently.

    I'm not in that category now, but a few years ago I had a big flare a week after my annual vaccine. This was despite me having the vaccine for a decade before then with no problems. My vasculitis consultant immediately ordered me never to have a vaccine again, and we tried to bring my flare under control.

    I think many people, including healthy people, often feel a bit under the weather after the flu vaccine. It can make you feel slightly flu-like. But personally if I could still get the vaccine I would take this versus the much worse risk of catching flu itself. I have had flu three times over recent years, including swine flu, and it was extremely unpleasant.

    So that's my response. I'd get it if I could, and recommend those who can get it to get it. My husband gets it each year as my carer (easily in Scotland, though I've heard people in e.g. England struggling to get it on same grounds), and since I'm mostly housebound that gives me a little extra protection each year from the bug.

    Hope this helps! And good luck whatever you decide :) You may also want to ask the advice of your consultant and/or GP.

  • Thanks, that's the information I needed to help me make up my mind...I'll get in touch with my GP surgery and make an appointment (once I make it through the 20 questions to see if I'm entitled) :-)

  • I noticed that Lloyds Chemist is offering flu vaccines to everyone, they charge £10. Presumably it is free for exempt people though.

  • I don't know if it's free at Lloyds for exempt people. You would need to ask Lloyds. It is free at health centres for exempt people. I would be free, and my husband gets it free as my carer, though that seems harder to get in England than in Scotland.

  • In the Lloyds ad they say you can get it for free if you are entitled. They also say on their website it is paid for by the NHS if you are entitled to a free vaccination.

  • When I lived in England I asked for it and was told in pretty short order I didn't need it - despite my husband and daughter who I lived with having serious chest problems so that they were entitled to it.

    I did develop proper flu once - for a week I couldn't get out of bed never mind do anything else and it was well over 3 weeks before I felt anything like able to do more than sit up in bed. Husband was in the States and my daughter was at Uni - it was a balance between not needing to go to the loo too often and not getting dehydrated. The only drink option was plain water and luckily I didn't want food so the distance from the bedroom to the kitchen wasn't a problem! I really never want that again!

  • Our local Tesco give free flu jabs to those entitled to a free one, EG immunosuppressed. I prefer to use my GP service as I know the staff and they know me. Had mine yesterday as a matter of fact, when I had my monthly blood test for MTX, Leflunomide and Pred. Had no problems up to now, not even the usual sore/stiff arm.

  • Yes, I've seen similar offers too, in other pharmacies. I've also seen prices ranging from £8>£12 in the supermarkets. I don't know how you prove your free entitlement, presumably you show your prescription?? I also prefer to use the GP surgery, once past the Tigeress on reception.

    Thanks again for the advice.

  • The one time my husband didn't get his flu jab he caught flu and went on to develop pneumonia which took 6 months to clear altogether.

    Part of the having it is to reduce the number of people who might catch flu - which has a knock-on effect on the rest of the population. Not enough people get the flu jab to achieve herd immunity - you need about 80%+ for that - but if it reduces the number of people who are at risk of getting severe effects it will help the hospitals. If there were a real epidemic amongst the elderly whose immune systems are less effective anyway the NHS would collapse very quickly - and at present it wouldn't take much.

    I believe it is actually a social responsibility to do all we can to avoid flu and the shot will reduce the severity in most people. It should reduce the likelihood of getting by at least 50%. Every little helps as they say.

  • You make a good point PMRpro. I hadn't thought of it being a civil duty...thank you for broadening my understanding.

  • Forgot to say: I only caught flu once in over a decade of being vaccinated against it. In the five years since I've been ordered not to have the vaccine I have caught it three times, and it's been just horrible each time. I developed bronchitis twice, which took a very long time to clear. I was lucky not to get pneumonia.

  • hi there my friend if you get the flu jab whether you missed last years or not i go for the jab it will keep you from getting the flu, i've got to get mine done hope this help take care bigalan

  • Hi Rasp,

    The above link is to the Green book ( the vaccination bible ) and their section on influenza vaccine.

    PMRpro makes a very good point about herd immunity. My personal experience of flu is as an ITU nurse. We were bursting at the seams with H1N1 ( swine flu ) patients when it first appeared on the scene. It targeted the immunosupressed and was a horrible illness making patients critically unwell. A lot of patients with severe pneumonia start with a flu like illness. It's not foolproof as it's the best guess as to what virus will be doing the rounds this year.

    I had an appt at Occ Health today and decided to get mine whilst I was there, I also make sure my asthmatic children are vaccinated. I do think it's a matter of personal choice though!

  • Thanks Keyes.

  • Hi,

    My doughter has MPA last 4 years.She never got flu jab.And she never had promlem.

  • The flu jab is made up of the commonest types of flu circulating around that year. Yes virus's change but on the whole the medics get it right. The flu jab changes every year in line with this years virus and that's why we have to get one every year. The flu jab does not give you the flu, yes you may feel a bit rough but that's pretty much it. I had my flu jab yesterday, I feel very well, have a slight lump at the injection site but that's all. I would encourage you to get the flu jab this and every year. Best wishes and good health

  • Thanks alybill, I have just booked my flu jab for next week and without any difficulty, at my own GP surgery. I must admit that I have been swayed by the positive answers to my original question.

  • Well done raspberry_tea, you'll be fine.

  • I reckon I'll be fine too.

    Thanks (ALL) again for the answers.

    And once I get my arm sorted out I'll be back on form and ready for winter!!

  • Dear raspberry tea-you still actually like the stuff then?,

    To answer your question, without any ifs/buts/maybe's-and so on YES, it is a good idea. Just because you missed a year, and got away with it..........! So, to recap, firstly YES, secondly YES, thirdly YES, fourthly (guess). I had mine Friday, at the pharmacy-as offered, at no charge to me. Why are you still reading this? SORRY you just popped out and had a 'jab', didn't you.

    I know that there was some slight controversy over the effectiveness, last year, but...BUT.....Well I had one!

    Seriously though it is a good idea and it IS offered for good reason. Let's not mince words here-if you did get very ill (or worse), as a result of NOT having this vaccination, who is to blame? (No NOT the government, or Tesco's, not even the NHS, far less your gardener)

    Sorry to 'harp on' a bit (BIT??).

    I send you my best wishes, and hope that you are well (as well as you can be anyway)


  • Hello AndrewT!!

    Thank you for making it crystal clear. I am scheduled for my jab on Wednesday (I cleared a space, in my hectic schedule of drinking tea, to fit it in!!)

    Life's as good as it's gonna I'm learning to enjoy what I've got, spend some more time drinking tea and less time moaning. (well, ummm... I can't promise, there may be an occasional moan, sorry).

    Sending best wishes back at you, I'm off for a cuppa char!

    Take care,

    Raspberry tea

  • Dear Lemon....Chinese....Ginseng...Strawberry....Elderflower-oh heck 'Flavored' TEA,

    I'm glad you are having a flu 'jab' and you didn't mind my, admittedly humorous, nagging.

    I have spent, most of, the day steam cleaning my Conservatory windows. It needs a bit of repair/TLC and, fortunately for us, we know-or at least one of my sisters does- just the person for the job. He is coming back to finish the roof repairs, mostly just adjustment/filling in. We will then have a new coat of paint, on the walls, and have the skirting boards etc. 'done'. Then all I have to do is get all the furniture back out here!

    Anyway glad that you are well RT (I think I'll call you that)


  • Hey AndrewT, thanks for the update. I hope you had lots of tea on the's important to keep hydrated when working hard.

    I've been tending to my raspberry bushes and other various gardening jobs.

    Glad you are well!


  • I was offered it after my first bout of 'pneumonia' and again last year. Going for bloods next week so will probably get it then. Last year my immune system was on it's best behaviour for a week afterwards and I commented at the time that it seemed to enjoy having something real to deal with so stopped having a go at me for a while.

  • Ha ha, that's a thought, like feeding the monster within. Hope you are well Orsen. :-)

  • More like distraction therapy, rasp! I'm doing OK, thanks, but suspect next week's 'bloods' may be interesting as possibly flaring a bit.

  • Ooh 'eck. I hope everything goes ok. I had an appointment last week and despite all my niggles I'm free of active vasculitis. Apparently we have to live with these niggles, I'm only just coming to terms with that and I don't think I will ever be able to tell the difference between side effects, residual damage, a muted response to infection or vasculitis symptoms because they all roll into the same big fat feelings for me. Anyway sorry you're going through it, fingers crossed for you.

  • Well, quite - I'm getting quite low on Pred, very very slowly and down to 3mg now, but it doesn't feel like withdrawal symptoms this time. Not too bad most of the time but I know how I was last year and there are a lot of similarities. Holiday ends tomorrow with a long drive home (not me driving, of course!) and I suspect Tuesday will be spent having to take things very easy.

  • Ironically, I needed to take things easy after our little holiday, earlier this year, too! Rest up and take care.

  • Will do - just got home after a good journey, mostly in sunshine!

  • Went in for 'bloods' today and, as I suspected, got my flu jab while I was there. So far, so good :)

  • Snap!! I got my flu jab, too. So far so good, in fact I hadn't thought about till now. :-)

    I hope your bloods are ok, when will you get the results?

  • Tomorrow at the earliest but my rheumy's away until Monday so I'll not be getting the customary email as soon as she sees them! re flu jab, apart from the dark hair appearing on the backs of my hands, the pointy fangs, claws and ears, and the furry face (oh, wait a minute, that's Pred, not flu jab ...) ... ;)

  • Very funny :-)...guess you'll be out trick or treating in a couple of weeks then?

  • With a disguise to make me look normal? ;)

  • Rheumy got back to her office today and by 9.20am I had an email from her. Back on the medical merry-go-round :P More bloods tomorrow :)

  • Round and round you go...hope it doesn't get too dizzy. Still got my fingers crossed for you. Take care.

  • I have never been offered & would not have the flu jab. My mum has auto immune issues & the only time she had it she suffered with flu & was severely ill after the jab. I watched many people have it when I worked in a nursing home and some reacted badly. I try to stay away from people who are ill & weigh up the risks.

    Some people say it is our civic duty to have the jab so we don't get flu & infect others but I believe it is everyone's duty to use tissues, wash hands & not sneeze & cough over everyone /thing. If you're contagious stay at home!

    Many people will have it & swear by it but it's my body, my life & my choice.

    I have GPA/Wegeners, lupus sle & sjorgrens & my choice is not to have it.

    Talk to the specialists who look after you. Take into consideration your medications, how you are & talk about the pros & cons of having it then you can make an informed decision.

  • I agree it's for everyone to make their own decisions. However, having seen the way 'joe public' acts with regard to any form of hygiene (how many women have I seen in the 'Ladies' popping their fingertips under running water for a second then walking out, for example?), I have no faith whatever in others doing the right thing! I've had two flu jabs (and the third yesterday) and that seems to have spared me even getting colds :)

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