Influenza is an acute viral infection of the respiratory tract characterised by the sudden onset of fever, chills, headaches, aching muscles and extreme fatigue. Symptoms can also commonly include a dry cough and sore throat. For otherwise healthy individuals, influenza is a self-limiting infection with recovery typically occurring within 2 to 7 days. However, the illness may be complicated by bronchitis, secondary bacterial pneumonia, and rarer life-threatening complications, such as meningitis. The risk of serious illness from influenza is higher amongst older adults, pregnant women and those with underlying health conditions, such as respiratory and cardiac disease.
Why have the vaccine?
As minor changes to the surface of the virus occur progressively from season to season, new immunity is required with each change. We therefore recommend having the flu vaccine each year, as immunity from the previous virus may not protect completely against the new subtype.
When to have the vaccine?
Most cases of influenza in the UK tend to occur during an 8 to 10 week period during the winter months. Ideally, vaccination should be completed by the end of November to maximise the duration of coverage through this period. However, it is still beneficial to be vaccinated at any subsequent point throughout the flu season.
Patients aged under 65
Traditional ‘trivalent’ vaccines were designed to protect against three different influenza viruses, including two influenza A viruses and one influenza B virus. We offer newer generation ‘Quadrivalent’ vaccines, which are developed with an additional strain of influenza B virus, aiming to give broader protection against circulating flu viruses.
Patients aged 65 and above
Whilst the Quadrivalent vaccine covers a wider range of influenza viruses, it is less effective at eliciting the required immune response in those aged 65 and above. As the adequacy of this immune response reduces, it leads to a fall in effective protection. In response to the limited effectiveness of standard vaccines in this age group, vaccines that lead to a better immune response in this group have been developed. At The London General Practice, we offer FDA-approved Fluad® to our patients aged 65 and above, a trivalent vaccine specifically designed and licenced for this age group to provide cover against viruses from both influenza A viruses and one influenza B virus. It is considered to be the most effective type of vaccine currently licenced for this group of patients. The vaccine consists of a naturally-occurring adjuvant known as squalene, which is already present in humans and additionally found in foods and health supplements. The adjuvant aims to provide a more enhanced immune response to the vaccine in adults aged 65 and above, thereby increasing subsequent protection. Our recommendations are also in accordance with the updated guidance of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, an independent expert advisory committee of the UK Department of Health.
If you would like to discuss this topic further, kindly contact The London General Practice on 0207 935 1000 to speak with an expert team member.