To get the vaccine or not to get the vaccine?

Ultan Molloy, MPSI, HealthWest Community Pharmacy this week discusses the benefits of a flu vaccination.

With many community pharmacists offering a flu vaccination service to patients, starting in the coming week, it raises some questions for our patients.

Influenza is a highly infectious acute respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. Influenza affects people of all ages, outbreaks of influenza occur almost every year, usually in winter. While most people recover within a week flu can cause serious illness and death, especially in the very young and in the elderly. A flu vaccine is produced every year to protect against flu.

Who should get vaccinated?

The following people should be vaccinated each year: people aged 65 years or older; younger people with certain illnesses including chronic lung, heart or kidney disease, diabetes or those with a suppressed immune system; residents of nursing homes, old people’s homes, and other long stay facilities; home carers of older people and health care workers.

Why should I get vaccinated?

The doctors in the World Health Organisation have shown that vaccination in a population such as ours will prevent the spread of the disease and hence save lives.

Are the flu and a cold the same thing?

No. The flu is caused by an influenza virus and a cold is caused by any one of a number of rotaviruses. The flu tends to be more severe for patients, lasts longer, and has potentially more serious effects depending on the person who gets the illness.

Will antibiotics work against the flu?

No. Antibiotics are ineffective against viruses such as the common cold and the flu. Your GP may decide that antibiotics are appropriate to treat an infection that you get as a result of being run down when you get the flu or a cold.

Do I need flu vaccination every year?

Yes. It is very important to protect yourself and get vaccinated every year. The World Health Organisation monitors the strains of influenza circulating every year. The vaccine offers 70 to 90 per cent protection from the flu virus and lasts about one year. Annual vaccination with the most recent strains is recommended.

Will the flu (influenza ) vaccination give me the flu?

No, influenza vaccine will not give you the flu. You may have cold like symptoms for a couple of days after vaccination while your body produces the antibodies to make the vaccine effective. Influenza vaccine contains killed or inactivated influenza viruses and therefore cannot cause influenza. It does, however, take 10 to 14 days for the vaccine to start protecting against influenza.

Is getting vaccinated by my community pharmacist any different to getting vaccinated by my GP or nurse?

The same vaccine is given to patients as you would get from your GP’s surgery. Only pharmacists that have been trained to give the vaccination can do so.

Contact Ultan Molloy, MPSI , BPharm (hons ), MSc, MA, Cert Clin Pharm at HealthWest Community Pharmacy, Ballindine on 094 936 4712.

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