The winter flu vaccination: An expert tells us everything you need to know
October is finally here. The nights are drawing in, the trees are turning to gold, and Halloween is just around the corner.
Despite all the great things that we associate with autumn (pumpkin spice lattes anyone?), there are certain things about this time of year that aren’t as pleasant.
Unfortunately, we are right on the cusp of flu season. However, the good news is that you can protect yourself with a simple winter flu vaccination. But where can you get one and how do they work?
To find out the facts, we caught up with Boots Pharmacist Heather Feeney. Here’s what she had to say.
What is the best time of year to get the winter flu vaccination?
When it comes to the winter flu vaccination, the sooner that you act, the better.
“We always recommend that you get the winter flu vaccination as early as possible during the flu season,” explains Heather. “After you get vaccinated, it takes somewhere between 10 and 21 days for your immunity to build up against the flu virus. That’s why it’s really important that you get the vaccination as soon as you can.”
Who can get it?
“The winter flu vaccine is available to anyone,” she explains. “We are providing it to people in Ireland from age 10 and up. This year we are doing the winter flu vaccinations from age 10 years plus in 25 selected stores. A list is available online. From 16 and up we provide injections in any one of our 84 pharmacies.”
What groups at particularly at risk?
While the vaccination is available to everyone, there are certain groups that are more at risk. They include the following:
• People aged 65 and over
• People (adults) with long-term medical condition such as diabetes, heart, kidney, liver disease ,cancer, chronic lung disease including COPD or neurological diseases
• People whose immune system is impaired due to disease or treatment
• People with a Body Mass Index (BMI) over 40
• People with haemoglobinopathy
• People with Down's syndrome
• Pregnant women
• Residents of nursing homes and other long stay institutions
• Healthcare workers
• Carers and household contacts of people at medical risk of the complications of flu
• People with regular close contact with poultry, water fowl or pigs
“There is a bit of a misconception out there that the winter flu vaccination is for older people,” explains Heather. “But if you go and visit your pharmacist or visit or Boots.ie page where we talk about the at risk categories or recommended groups you will realise that a lot of people fall into these groups.”
Is there anyone that should not get the winter flu vaccination?
So, now we know who should get the vaccination, is there anyone that should avoid it?
“The vaccination should not be given to those with a history of severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to a previous dose of the vaccine or any of its ingredients,” states Heather. “Also patients on specific medicines called combination checkpoint inhibitors”. “If someone comes in and they’re already feeling quite poorly or they have a high temperature we would ask them to come back when they’re feeling better. However, for the most part the winter flu vaccination is available to all.”
How long does the appointment take?
Boots operate a walk-in service but they recommend booking an appointment online to ensure a speedy process. Many of their stores offer late night and weekend opening hours so you can find a time that suits you.
“The appointment only takes between 15 and 20 minutes,” explains Heather. “Receiving the vaccination and having the consultation with the pharmacist is actually a very quick process. We just ask you to stay for 15 minutes to check that you are not having any reactions to the vaccination and you are ready to leave.”
Are there any side effects?
Side effects of the winter flu vaccination are usually mild and may include soreness and redness where the injection was given. Heather explains this further stating,
“Obviously if you receive a vaccination you receive a puncture to the skin so sometimes it can feel a little bit irritated. Other people say their arm feels a little bit achy for the evening. That’s not something that we would expect to last longer than 24 hours.” Can I treat the flu with antibiotics?
“The flu is a virus; therefore it can not be treated by antibiotics,” explains Heather. “You can go to your pharmacist and they will help you to get things that will relieve the symptoms but in terms of the virus itself the best way to tackle that is by getting the winter flu vaccination.”
The Winter flu vaccination Service is now available in Boots stores nationwide, with many of the stores offering late night and weekend opening hours. The cost of the vaccination is €20 and booking an appointment is recommended. Subject to specially trained pharmacists and stock availability.
For more information on the service or to book an appointment visit the Boots website here.