Flu & Pneumococcal Vaccines 

What is Flu?

Flu (Influenza) is an infectious disease which spreads very rapidly through coughs and sneezes of people who are already carrying the virus. The Flu immunisation (Flu Vaccine) gives you good protection form the Flu virus, and lasts for 1 year. Each year, the vaccine is usually available from autumn, and is made from the strains of flu that is expected in the coming winter.

Flu Symptoms

 

The symptoms of flu will hit you severely and suddenly. They will usually include a

 

  • high temperature,

  • chills,

  • headaches

  • aching muscles

  • sore throat

 

Colds are often mistaken for flu, however they are less severe, and often start gradually with a runny nose or sore throat. For some patients, Flu can lead to serious illnesses like bronchitis or pneumonia, and may require hospital treatment. The main purpose of the flu vaccine is to protect those patients who are at risk of developing complications that can result from flu.

What is Pneumonia?

Pneumonia is not the same as a cold or flu, it is a very unpleasant illness caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae. The bacteria are airborne and spread easily through coughs, sneezes or close contact. Pneumonia can be very severe and symptoms can last for weeks. It is commonly associated with the elderly and can be fatal; but it can occur in healthy and younger patients too. In the UK, it is thought that up to 1 in every 100 adults develop pneumonia every year, although it may be underreported as symptoms vary and can be confused with flu or chest infections.

Pneumonia Symptoms

  • Chest pain with difficulty breathing

  • A high fever, shaking chills

  • Rapid heartbeat

  • Excessive sweating

  • Fatigue and feeling generally unwell

  • A cough with phlegm that persists or gets worse

Pneumococcal Vaccine

The pneumococcal vaccine (or ‘pneumo jab’ or pneumonia vaccine as it’s also known) protects against pneumococcal infections.

Pneumococcal infections are caused by the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae and can lead to pneumonia, septicaemia (a kind of blood poisoning) and meningitis.

Who should have the pneumococcal vaccine?

A pneumococcal infection can affect anyone. However, some people need the pneumococcal vaccination because they are at higher risk of complications.

 

These include:

  • all children under the age of two

  • adults aged 65 or over

  • children and adults with certain long-term health conditions, such as a serious heart or kidney condition

How often is the pneumococcal vaccine given?

Babies receive the pneumococcal vaccine as three separate injections, at 2 months, 4 months and 12-13 months.

People over-65 only need a single pneumococcal vaccination which will protect for life. It is not given annually like the flu jab.

People with a long term health condition may need just a single one-off pneumococcal vaccination or five-yearly vaccination depending on their underlying health problem.