Flu jab 2017: Does it REALLY work? Why the NHS is ‘WORRIED’ about injection effectiveness

The UK’s chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, warned that the flu jab may not work for those over 65 this year.

“At this stage in the winter, none of us know how it is going to go,” Davies told The Telegraph.

“It wasn’t very effective last year, but it is our best hope. I’ve had mine.”

Why is there a risk?

The NHS is preparing for more cases of flu this year than normal, according to Professor Paul Heath, paediatric infectious diseases researcher at St George’s University.

“The Southern Hemisphere is seeing a lot more influenza this year, so I think the NHS’s concerns are simply a reflection of that,” said Heath.

The influenza strains, including the deadly Aussie flu, could impact the UK, and we should be prepared for that possibility, he added.

Flu strains also change every year, so each year the flu vaccine has to change.

It’s impossible to say whether the flu jab would work on over-65s, said pharmacist Thorrun Govind.

“Flu strains change each year, so the vaccine is based on research and predictions based on patterns seen in the previous flu seasons,” Govind said.

“We won't know till after the flu season is over, if it will work on over 65s this year. 

Who’s at risk?

The over-65s, and those with a weakened immune system are most at risk of the flu jab not working.

As the immune system weakens over time, the over-65s are most at risk.

“I think that the elderly are overall less likely to benefit from the vaccine because they have a weakened immune system,” said Heath. “It’s a process known as immunosenescence.”

Immunosenescence means the body is less able to respond to infections, and to develop immunity after vaccinations.

Any other individual that may have a weakened immune system could be at risk too, Heath added. 

That includes those suffering with cancer or major heart disease.

“Nonetheless, it’s a balance of the risk of influenza. It’s definitely still worth doing,” he said.

Govind added: “The risks of flu are very real however so it's still important to get vaccinated as it's the best protection we have.”

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