Around 10,000 deaths are caused by flu each year in England and Wales
Q. I am afraid that the flu vaccine will give me or my child the flu. Is this true?
A It is impossible to get the flu from the flu vaccine. The vaccine doesn't contain live flu viruses and therefore cannot result in a case of the flu. However, sometimes people catch a cold shortly after having the vaccine and this can make you feel ill. It's important to remember that this is not the flu, it is a cold that mimics some symptoms of the flu but is far less acute or deadly.
Q. What are the side-effects of the flu vaccine?
A. After the flu vaccination, you may get a mild fever and slight muscle aches for a day or so. But most people don't have these side-effects. Some people may have a sore arm after vaccination – but again, not everyone.
Q. What about egg allergies?
A. About 0.2 to 0.3 per cent of the general population have an allergy to eggs. Eggs are used in producing the vaccine.
If an egg-free flu vaccine is not available, a GP may be able to find a suitable flu vaccine with a low egg content. But if you or your child are allergic to eggs, speak to your GP.
Q. What is the difference between the flu and the cold?
A. Colds and flu are caused by different strains of virus and the effects vary hugely. Colds come on gradually (for example, runny nose, then sore throat, and then a cough) but the flu hits you immediately and with a fever.
Flu is a much more dangerous virus which can lead to serious infections and illness. The flu can be deadly.
Q. Can the flu really be that bad?
A Among even healthy people, getting the flu can disrupt your work and social plans for two weeks or more and you can expect to have a fever, headaches, extreme tiredness, cough, sore throat, nasal congestion, and body aches.
Most children are ill with the flu for less than a week. But some children have a more serious illness and may need to be treated in the hospital. The flu can be deadly. People of all ages are seriously affected by flu every year.
Q. I got vaccinated last year. Do I need to get a flu jab this winter?
A. The flu virus changes and mutates each year. So getting vaccinated each year is important to make sure you have immunity to the strains most likely to cause an outbreak. The flu vaccine won't protect against all strains of the virus, but it will make sure it gives you immunity against the strains most likely to cause an outbreak.
Q. Has the flu vaccine been tested enough and is it safe?
A. All vaccines, including flu vaccines, have to be tested thoroughly before they can be licensed in the UK, and they have to be licensed before they can be used.
Q. Can antibiotics cure the flu?
A. Unfortunately not. Antibiotics kill bacteria – but the flu is caused by viruses, which don't respond to antibiotics. Sometimes people develop complications such as pneumonia because of the flu virus and they're given antibiotics. But these antibiotics are not directed at the flu itself and cannot fight the flu virus.
Q. I am/my children are fit and healthy and have a strong immune system. Can they catch the flu?
A. For flu viruses, it doesn't matter whether you, or your children, are fit and healthy (or not). As the flu is very infectious, anyone can catch it. Even if your immune system has been strong, and you have never caught the flu, there is no guarantee that you will not catch the flu this year.
Q. Does the flu vaccine contain mercury?
A. Thiomersal is a mercury-based chemical no longer found in most standard UK vaccines. It was present in the Swine Flu vaccine used in the 2009/10 and 2010/11 flu seasons in the UK, but it is not in any of the annual flu vaccines currently being used in the UK.
Q. Is it dangerous for those who are pregnant and their babies to be vaccinated?
A. When you're pregnant, your immune system changes, so you're at greater risk of complications from flu, such as having a miscarriage or going into premature labour. The flu vaccine will protect you and your unborn child and it can also protect your baby for three months after birth, providing extra peace of mind during that crucial first stage.
If you're pregnant and contract the flu, you'll be five times more likely to have a stillborn baby in the first week following birth. You'll also be three times more likely to deliver prematurely.
Q. So overall, is it a good idea to get the flu vaccine?
A. Yes, the vaccine can save your life, that of your loved ones and, if you're pregnant, the life of your unborn child. By getting the vaccine, you're also preventing spreading the virus to other people.
Percentage of 'at risk' people vaccinated against flu in 2018/19:
London: 44.4 per cent
Lewisham: 43.3 per cent
Percentage of people 65+ vaccinated in 2018/19
London: 65.4 per cent
Lewisham 64.5 per cent
Percentage of children aged 2 to 4 vaccinated in 2018/19
London: 29.2 per cent
Lewisham: 34 per cent
Find out more about how you can protect yourself and your family this winter.