Influenza is an acute viral infection of the respiratory tract. It is an unpleasant illness for all people but in particular it can cause severe symptoms and even death in certain ‘at risk’ groups.
Annual influenza vaccination is therefore recommended to protect those most at risk if they develop the illness: people who have:
- Chronic respiratory disease including moderate to severe asthma*, cystic fibrosis, bronchiectasis
- Chronic renal disease. Renal transplant
- Chronic heart disease
- Chronic Neurological Disease including multiple sclerosis and central nervous system degenerative and hereditary disease, Immunosuppression due to disease or its treatment – HIV, lack of spleen’ use of drugs such as methotrexate, ciclosporin, prednisolone
*Asthma which in the last two years has required the use of a preventive inhaler (containing beclometasone, budesonide or fluticasone), use of a nebuliser, steroid (prednisolone) tablets by mouth, or hospitalisation with an asthma attack. Mild asthma requiring only the intermittent use of a reliever inhaler (salbutamol, terbutaline) is excluded.
Vaccination is not recommended for healthy young people or those with health problems outside the above groups (e.g. epilepsy, thyroid disorders etc).
Influenza vaccination in general is safe and effective and used annually worldwide. Soreness at the immunisation site can occur and rarely there is a feverish illness in the 48 hours after vaccination.
The following very rare side-effects have been reported – it’s important you should know about them but you should not be put off vaccination because they are extremely rare and benefits of vaccination far outweigh remote risks:
Immediate allergic reactions such as rash, wheezing and collapse, Guillain-Barre syndrome – a reversible nerve disorder with numbness and weakness (a link with vaccination is not proven), Easy bruising because of a decrease in platelet cells in the blood.
People with known severe allergy to eggs should not have the vaccine. Tell the nurse if you have had an allergic reaction to influenza vaccine in the past.
For further information see patient.co.uk.