Should I have the flu jab?

You may be wondering whether you should have the flu jab now that the weather is getting colder. We’ve answered the common questions in our article.

Influenza is a common infectious virus. It is often confused with a cold, but influenza, or flu, comes on quicker and makes you feel more unwell.

Most healthy people recover from flu after a few days and don’t need to see their GP. However, some complications can arise from flu, such as pneumonia and bronchitis.

If you have any further questions about the flu vaccine, you can speak to a nurse on our helpline. Further information about our helpline can be found here.

Who is more likely to develop complications from flu?

There are certain groups that are most at risk from complications related to flu. These include the elderly, the young, pregnant women and those with certain medical conditions, such as asthma.

These groups are eligible for the free flu vaccine on the NHS each year.

What about those with blood cancer?

If you have leukaemia, lymphoma, or myeloma, it is recommended you also have the flu vaccine, as blood cancer can lower your immunity. Even if you are currently not undergoing treatment, such as you’re on watch and wait, you should still speak to your GP or medical team about having the jab.

What if I am undergoing treatment? Should I have the vaccine?

Yes. Treatment such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy and steroids can also lower your immune system, so you are still at risk of developing flu-related complications. It is safe to have the vaccine whilst you are undergoing treatment.

My immune system is low. Will the vaccine make me ill?

The flu jab does not contain any live flu virus, so you will not develop flu after having it.

However, you should not have the flu vaccination if you have an egg allergy, as some of the vaccines contain egg. Speak to your doctor about your allergy, as an egg-free vaccine may be available.

You should also not have the flu jab if you’ve had a reaction to a vaccine in the past.

Are there any side effects?

Side effects from the flu jab are uncommon. However, some have reported a feeling of soreness around the site of injection, as well as a slight fever and aching joints. These side effects do not mean you have, or will develop, flu.

I had the flu jab last year. Do I need to have it again this year?

Yes, as the viruses that cause flu can change each year. This means that every year the most likely strains of virus are identified in advance so as to create a targeted vaccine.

If you were to skip this year’s vaccine, you may be at risk of catching another strain of influenza virus that you have not been vaccinated against.

Can you still get flu even if you have had the vaccine?

Yes, it is still possible you may catch flu, but if you have had the vaccine, you are much more likely to recover more quickly and less likely to develop complications.

I am a relative of someone with blood cancer. Should I get the flu jab?

Yes, so as to prevent any chance of you passing the flu on. Speak to your GP or pharmacist about having the vaccine.

I am a medical professional. Should I have the flu jab?

If you work with haemato-oncology patients, then you should certainly have the flu jab. NHS-employed front-line healthcare workers can get the flu jab for free, and your employer will organise this for you.

How do I get the flu jab?

Flu vaccine clinics start running from the end of September, so simply speak to your GP about the clinic times. Alternatively, if you are visiting hospital regularly, you might be able to have the vaccination there.

If you are in the middle of treatment, speak to your consultant or cancer specialist about the best time to have the jab. Particular cancer treatments can make your immune system especially low, and so this may mean the vaccine is not quite as effective. Your consultant or specialist will be able to tell you the best time for you to have the vaccine.

What about the shingles vaccine? Should I have that?

No, as this is a live vaccine. You should not have any vaccinations that contain live virus.

What you need to be careful of

Treatment for most types of blood cancers will result in lower levels of white blood cells, neutrophils, that would usually fight food poisoning bacteria.  Also, the lining of the gut acts as a barrier preventing bacteria from reaching the bloodstream, and during chemotherapy and radiotherapy this can become damaged, increasing the risk of infection

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