1. Flu is dangerous
It is tempting to think that flu is no worse than a bad cold, but in fact it is a serious disease that can kill otherwise healthy people.
In the UK an average of 600 people a year die from complications of flu, but in some years this can rise to over 10,000 people.
Flu leads to hundreds of thousands of GP visits and tens of thousands of hospital stays a year. This in itself is a good reason for getting the flu vaccine, even if the protection it offers varies from year to year.
2. Adult vaccine protects against three different strains of flu
In the 2014-15 season, one of the strains in the adult flu vaccine did not offer very good protection against the main strain of flu causing disease in the UK. This is why the vaccine has been described as “only 3% effective” in adults.
However, it is believed that the vaccine has still offered some protection against this strain, especially in terms of preventing serious illness resulting in hospitalisation and death. In addition, the vaccine contained two other strains of flu virus, which protect against other strains of flu (Swine Flu and Influenza B, which could also have been circulating this winter).
With a disease as serious as flu, even a small amount of protection is better than none.
3. In 9 out of 10 years, the flu vaccine prevents about half of all flu cases
A vaccine that is 50% effective may not sound good enough – but it prevents hundreds of thousands of people in the UK from getting sick.
4. Nasal Flu vaccine
The nasal flu vaccine is a different type of vaccine from the one used in adults.
This season it had an additional strain of flu vaccine included, and offered protection against four strains of virus, not just three. In Autumn 2014 several areas of the UK ran pilot flu vaccination projects with all children of primary school age. In these areas, there have been fewer cases of flu overall.
This suggests that giving more young children the Nasal Flu vaccine helps to protect everyone in the community, and it may be that the children’s flu vaccine was much more than 3% effective this year.
5. Flu vaccine has an excellent safety record.
It is still the best protection we have against an unpredictable virus which can cause severe illness and deaths each year among at-risk groups, including older people, pregnant women and those with a long-term health condition.
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