Flu 2020 FAQs

Flu 2020


*NEW* The vaccine can give some people a temperature. Will I then have to isolate and be tested for COVID-19 even though the cause will be flu vaccine? 
If you are unwell after vaccination, and you have any of the main symptoms of COVID-19 (a high temperature of 37.8°C or higher, a new, continuous cough or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste), stay at home and contact your line management and COVID Leads.

So, what is flu? Really?  
A bad bout of flu is much worse than a heavy cold. Flu symptoms come on suddenly and sometimes severely. They include fever, chills, headaches and aching muscles, as well as a cough and sore throat. You're likely to spend two or three days in bed. If you get complications caused by flu, you could become seriously ill and need to go to hospital.

Can’t I just get some antibiotics?      
No, you can't. Viruses cause flu, and antibiotics only work against bacteria. You may be prescribed antiviral medicines to treat your flu; these don’t cure flu but can make you less infectious to others and reduce the length of time you may be ill. You would need to be prescribed very quickly after symptoms appear for these to have any affect.  You would be suffering unnecessarily and passing on the virus to others.  

I don’t believe that Flu is a killer. Isn’t this just scare mongering?    
Flu does kill.  Public Health England estimate that an average 11,000 people die from flu in England each year. 

Can the flu vaccine cause flu?
No. The injected vaccine does not contain any live viruses, so it cannot cause flu. You may get a slight temperature and aching muscles for a couple of days afterwards, and your arm may feel a bit sore where you had the injection. Other reactions are rare, and flu vaccines have a good safety record.

I will get ill or complications from having the flu vaccine?  
There is no scientific evidence to suggest that this can happen at all.  However, a slight change in temperature is possible.

You say I can spread flu without having any symptoms!  Yeah, right?  
If you feel well, you could still unknowingly spread flu to patients. A Lancet study indicates that up to 77 per cent of people with flu have no symptoms.  That’s 7 out of 10. Without any knowledge of it happening, you could give flu to anyone you come into contact with and potentially cause severe complications or even death. 

As a person who spends most of their time around less healthy people, you may have a skewed view of what the average level of health is in the general public. You might therefore think yourself as above average health-wise and less in need of preventative action. You might also believe you have more control over a situation than you really do by believing washing your hands is sufficient protection, but the flu vaccine is the single best protection against flu – for you and others.

If I had the flu vaccine last year, do I need it again now?
Yes. The viruses that cause flu can change every year, which means the flu (and the vaccine) this year may be different from last year.

Each year new strains of flu circulate; the vaccine itself changes to suit the current.  This year we have a quadrivalent vaccine, protecting you, family, friends and patients against four known flu viruses.

Will it affect COVID antibodies? Can the flu vaccine increase the chances of respiratory complications due to COVID?
There is not enough evidence to tell us yet.  It is unlikely that either of these things will happen however; there are no obvious links to concern.

How effective is the flu vaccine?
A flu vaccine is the best protection we have against an unpredictable virus that can cause unpleasant illness in children and severe illness and death among at-risk groups, including older people, pregnant women and those with an underlying medical health condition.

Studies have shown that the flu vaccine will help prevent you getting the flu. It won't stop all flu viruses and the level of protection may vary, so it's not a 100% guarantee that you'll be flu-free, but if you do get flu after the vaccination it's likely to be milder and shorter-lived than it would otherwise have been.

There is also evidence to suggest that the flu vaccine can reduce your risk of having a stroke.

Over time, protection from the injected flu vaccine gradually decreases and flu strains often change. So new flu vaccines are produced each year, which is why people advised to have the flu vaccine need it every year too.

How long will the flu vaccine protect me for?
The flu vaccine will provide protection for you for the upcoming flu season. People eligible for flu vaccination should have the vaccine each year. There are several types of flu vaccine. Those eligible will be offered the one that is most effective for them, depending upon their age.

Health and social care workers should be offered a quadrivalent influenza vaccine grown either in eggs or cells (QIVe or QIVc) – both of which are considered to be equally suitable.

For the small number of healthcare workers aged 65 and over, if their employer cannot offer QIVc they should ask their GP or pharmacy for an adjuvanted trivalent influenza vaccine (aTIV). This is preferable to the non-adjuvanted egg-based flu vaccine, particularly if they are in an at-risk group.

What are the Flu vaccine side effects?
Serious side effects of the injected flu vaccine are very rare. You may have a mild fever and aching muscles for a couple of days after having the vaccine, and your arm may be a bit sore where you were injected.

How safe is the flu vaccine?
The flu vaccines used in the national programme have a good safety record. Flu vaccines that have been licensed recently in England have been thoroughly tested before they’re made available and have been used in other countries with a good safety record.

The only risk is an allergic reaction.  And the risk of having a serious anaphylactic reaction to the jab is less than one in a million. That’s lower than getting seriously ill from having the flu itself.

If you have had a serious allergic reaction to a flu vaccine, or hen’s eggs/feathers before, you should always talk to your GP.

Is there anyone who cannot have a flu vaccine? 
Yes. You should not have the flu vaccine if you have ever had an allergic reaction to a flu vaccine or one of its ingredients. This happens very rarely. You also need to take precautions if you have an egg allergy.

I’m pregnant.  Is it safe to have the vaccine?   
Yes, of course. Pregnant women can have the flu vaccine at any stage of their pregnancy.  Vaccination can help look after you during pregnancy and your new baby for up to 6 months afterwards

Should vegans be given the cell-based vaccine as standard?
Like many pharmaceutical products, all of the recommended flu vaccines use animal derived products in their production. The vaccines for the coming season are grown on either eggs or a cell line derived from an animal. Vaccinations are not compulsory in the UK; we operate a system of informed consent. Some vegans may therefore choose not to have the flu vaccine because of the use of animal derived products. Flu vaccination is recommended because it provides the best protection there is against an unpredictable virus.

Is there a link between the flu vaccine and motor neurone disease (MND)?  
Preventing flu in the first place is the best option. Read more - https://psnc.org.uk/avon-lpc/wp-content/uploads/sites/23/2015/07/Neurological-Disease-and-Flu-Vaccine-Importance.pdf

Can I have the flu vaccine while I'm taking antibiotics?
Yes, it's fine to have the flu vaccine while you are taking a course of antibiotics, provided you are not ill with a fever.

Why is the Trust paying for staff having the vaccine?
Some funding is included in CQUIN as a way to encourage NHS staff to have the vaccine in order to improve patient safety and care.  This is because the more people have the jab the safer the wider population, your patients, family and friends will be. 


If you have any specific questions relating to the flu vaccine please contact flu@eastamb.nhs.uk.