What’s the flu jab really about? Secrets of ...

What’s the flu jab really about? Secrets of a nurse…

Ok, so for those anti-vax-the-government-is-controlling-us-with-injection types, please do me a favour and move along. If decades and decades of peer-reviewed evidence-based research isn’t going to convince you of the merit of the flu jab, then I’m certainly not going to be able to with my little here blog. Just please don’t have children.

For those wondering why there’s been so much hot debate about the flu jab, I thought I’d write a little post covering the bases.

What’s the flu jab for?

To prevent to contraction and spread of the influenza virus. Using trends of strains seen in countries who’ve already had their winter season, vaccines are developed to prevent the population from contracting the infection and passing on germs to those who are weaker, younger and frail.

Is the flu really that bad?

If you think the flu is like a bad cold you had a few years ago, you had a bad cold. Could you get out of bed? It was a bad cold. Did you lift the kettle to make a cuppa? You had a bad cold. Still had function of your muscles? That’s right, bad cold. The flu is devastating to a healthy, young person. It can kill those who are young, elderly, or immunocompromised. The flu makes you wish you were dead. It affects everything, head, stomach, muscles… it feels like being on fire and being submerged in ice at the same time. It saps every ounce of energy from you. It’s hell within your own body.

Is the flu jab effective?

Yes. Many people, especially those in healthcare, will come into contact with those who have the flu, and even if we don’t personally show any symptoms, we might pass it on to one of the hundreds of sick people we treat each day. The flu jab is a non-live (it’s not the actual flu virus) vaccine that stimulates your body into producing antibodies that will protect you should you come into contact with that strain of the flu.

But the last time I had the jab I ended up getting the flu a week later!

Again, the flu vaccine isn’t life so this is impossible. It may be the flu jab and the body’s own inflammatory system has wiped you out and made you feel a bit under the weather, or perhaps (if it truly was the deathly flu) you came into contact with the virus before your body had time to create the antibody package to protect you. The vaccine cannot possibly give anyone the flu. Anaphylaxis, yes, but that’s a different kettle of fish.

Wait, people can be allergic to the flu jab?

People can be allergic to anything. Would you stop eating any new food or trying any new skincare product because of the risk of allergy? Some people would I guess, but life would be quite dull with that mentality.

If I get the flu, it’s ok I’ll just get antibiotics

Right well that won’t help unless you also fancy a bout of aggressive diarrhoea with your muscle cramp. Antibiotics only treat bacterial infections and the flu is a virus. It’s like feeding dog food to a baby. It’s possible but I’m pretty sure not advisable. Even anti-virals won’t make the flu go away, they’ll just shorten the duration of the awful symptoms.

Ok, I need to do my research before I’m convinced

Good. Anyone who blindly accepts medical treatment without knowing all the facts is pretty silly. Everyone, where possible, should be aware of the evidence behind a treatment, the risks and complications and the benefits. Do your research but please ensure it’s from a reputable source (not all journals are created equal) and not

So why don’t all nurses have the flu jab?

The jab is quite uncomfortable and it can leave your arm feeling a little battered. It’s an injection that goes into the muscle, and some nurses just hate needles. I would sure hope there are no nurses who believe conspiracy theories as I’d genuinely be calling their professional competence into question. And I mean that with no hesitancy. Any nurse who doesn’t believe the reams of evidence that’s been available and consistent over the past decade or so has no business being in nursing because they’re at least incompetent and at worst actively a danger to patients.

People have the right to refuse the vaccine, but it should be based on evidence and a levelled decision. There are thoughts about making the jab compulsory for all healthcare workers (just like DBS checks and other vaccines are compulsory for a job offer) and I would welcome this. I wouldn’t want my nan ending up in hospital, or worse, because her carer thought the flu vaccine was a bit of a joke.

If you have the chance to have your flu vaccination, do it before the end of November. It doesn’t just protect you, it protects your family, children, patients, and your wider circle. And mine too.