Medical Q&As

Influenza vaccine - should I have it?

My doctor gave me the flu injection last year and I developed a very bad chest infection a few weeks later. Should I have the flu injection this year? I'm 67 years old.

I would strongly recommend that you have the flu injection this year. I doubt that the chest infection you experienced last winter was in any way related to the actual injection. Influenza has a short incubation period so if you were to develop influenza you would do so within 24 hours of contact. The second reason why I dispute the connection between the injection and the chest infection is that influenza vaccine does not contain a live virus. It contains what is technically referred to as inactivated surface antigen. Inactivated means there is no disease generating potential with the vaccine because the capacity to infect has been eliminated. The term surface antigen relates to a portion of the virus. In other words the vaccine contains a portion of the virus rather than the complete intact virus. Therefore the flu vaccine does not have the potential for causing the flu. On the basis of your age you are eligible to be vaccinated free of charge by your GP. Now is the time to be vaccinated so that if influenza strikes this coming winter your immune system will have had sufficient time to be prepared to repel the virus.