By Ross Walker

t’s that time of the year when we need to start thinking about having the flu jab.  Influenza in its various mutated forms, rears its ugly head throughout the world each year during the colder months with a typical peak in winter. 

Although the flu vaccine is highly effective in preventing severe influenza and its myriad of complications, it is never 100% effective and minor reactions are common. Although serious reactions do occur, they are thankfully rare. It is important to make some points about the flu vaccine.

1.  You cannot get the flu from the vaccine. It is inactivated and therefore this is not possible.

2. Some people do have a flu-like reaction, but I can reassure you that the reaction is nothing like  contracting a serious dose of influenza.

3. The flu vaccine is now quadrivalent which means it will now cover all four strains of influenza  predicted for our flu season.

4. It is free for certain categories of people but in particular, children under the age of five, people  with chronic illnesses and people over the age of 65.

But, there are still people out there who have concerns about vaccinations and at the extreme are the ‘Anti-Vaxers, who, in my opinion, have been scaremongering and have caused a number of people (and in particular the children) to develop serious infectious illnesses and occasionally, death, by their unfounded, ill informed, unscientific campaigns.

The anti vaccination brigade has reared its very ugly head with the advent of the internet where basically anyone, regardless of training or education can air their views. As a reasonable person, i have absolutely no problem with free speech, as long as others come to no harm through listening to other’s opinion.

It is estimated that just under one third of the world’s population use some type of social media. One of the newest platforms is pintrest and a US researcher Jeanine Guidry published a paper in the journal – Vaccine, regarding the Effect of Social Media Posts Around Vaccination. She collected 800 vaccine related pins and found 75% were negative towards vaccines. The negativity ranged from mild comments regarding safety to more radical claims that vaccines were specifically designed to kill people.

Although it is recommended that all children from six months to eighteen years of age should receive annual flu vaccinations, a recent poll of American parents that (compared with other vaccines, e.g. measles whooping cough etc) the flu vaccine is less important, doesn’t work as well, has been less tested and has more side effects.

I must say, this is ill-informed nonsense. Let me remind anyone who has concerns around vaccines, and in particular the flu vaccine – just after the 1st World War the Spanish Flu killed around 50,000,000 people. This, of course, was well before vaccinations were discovered, developed and introduced.

Since vaccinations have been introduced, we have not seen this carnage. People still die from influenza but the vast majority of these deaths are in unvaccinated people.

As someone who is very prone to influenza, I for one, will be fronting up for my quadrivalent vaccine when it is available in early April.