Each year, a new vaccine is developed to protect against the strains of flu virus that are expected to be most prevalent that winter. This ‘flu jab’ is used not just in the UK, but throughout the Northern hemisphere. This vaccine provides good protection (70-80% reliability) against all strains of flu included in the vaccination and lasts for a year.

The entire process of developing the seasonal flu vaccine is led, organised and overseen by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The flu jab is offered to people in at-risk groups. These are people, such as pregnant women and the elderly, who are at greater risk of developing serious complications if they catch flu.

Below is the current information from the NHS website.

Please note that this is subject to change, for more information please see NHS Flu

For most people, seasonal flu is unpleasant but not serious and they recover within a week.

However, certain people are at greater risk of developing serious complications of flu, such as bronchitis and pneumonia. These may require hospital treatment. A large number of elderly people die from flu every winter.

The seasonal flu vaccine is offered free of charge to these at-risk groups to protect them from catching flu and developing these complications.

Also, this winter (2010-11), the seasonal flu vaccine will be offered to all pregnant women at any stage of pregnancy, including those not in the high-risk groups.

At-risk groups

It is recommended you have a flu jab if you:

  • are 65 or over
  • are pregnant
  • have a serious medical condition
  • live in a residential or nursing home
  • are the main carer for an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if you fall ill
  • are a healthcare or social care professional directly involved in patient care
  • work with poultry

This winter (2010-2011), it is recommended that all pregnant women at any stage of pregnancy have the seasonal flu jab.

If you are the parent of a child (over six months) with a long-term condition, speak to your GP about the flu jab. Your child’s condition may get worse if they catch flu.

If you are the carer of an elderly or disabled person, make sure they have had their flu jab.

You are entitled to a free flu vaccination if you work in close contact with poultry. This includes people who:

  • work in areas where poultry are kept for rearing or egg production,
  • handle or catch live poultry,
  • sort eggs in poultry houses, or
  • slaughter or clean poultry.

Free flu vaccination is offered to poultry workers because they are at slightly greater risk of catching bird flu if there is an outbreak.

If the bird flu and human flu viruses were to mix, a new flu virus could be made. A flu vaccination protects against human flu, reducing the risk of the viruses mixing even if a person had both human flu and bird flu at the same time.

The flu vaccine is being offered as a precautionary measure to eliminate this slight risk. There is currently not an increased risk of a bird flu outbreak in the UK and this risk remains low.