More effective flu jab available for over 65s

If you haven’t realised already it’s time to have your annual flu vaccine. And this year, if you’re aged 65 or older the vaccine is designed to be more effective for your age group.

Public Health England (PHE) has advised that the jab for the over-65s contains a substance called an adjuvant, which boosts the jab’s effectiveness by improving the body’s immune response to the vaccine.

This, says PHE, is important because older adults’ bodies typically do not respond as well to the flu vaccine as those of younger people because older people’s immune systems are naturally weaker.

“Flu is potentially a very serious illness, and we know adults over 65 are more likely to catch and have complications from flu so have the most to gain from an improved vaccine,” says PHE medical director Professor Paul Cosford.

“By introducing an enhanced flu vaccine for this age group they will be better protected as well as helping to reduce the spread of flu to those around them.”

This year’s flu jab for the over 65s is a trivalent vaccine, which means it protects against three of the flu virus strains that are most likely to be in circulation. The flu vaccination programme for the rest of the population has also been improved as it is a quadrivalent vaccine, which means it protects against a total of four strains of flu.

Are you eligible for a free jab?

This autumn/winter you can get a free NHS flu jab if you’re one of the following:

  • Adults aged 65 or older
  • Adults aged 18 – 64 with a long-term health condition
  • Children aged two to three years old
  • School children in years reception 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5
  • Pregnant women
  • Health and social care workers
  • Carers
  • Morbidly obese people

PHE is encouraging all eligible adults to get their free NHS jabs from their local general practice or pharmacy before the end of November to protect themselves and their families before flu reaches its seasonal peak.

This is particularly important for people with chronic conditions, because according to PHE those with respiratory diseases such as COPD, emphysema or asthma are seven times more likely to have serious complications if they catch flu. Meanwhile if you have cardiovascular problems such as chronic heart disease or angina, or you’ve had a stroke, you’re 11 times more likely to die from flu complications.

“Getting the flu vaccine is the single best way to protect yourself against this potentially fatal illness, and this year the NHS is offering it to 24 million people across the country,” says Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies.

Of the new vaccine for the over-65s, Professor Davies says: “This could prevent hundreds of deaths and save thousands of GP and hospital hours – I strongly encourage everyone in vulnerable groups to get the life-saving vaccine as we head into winter.”

What if you’re not eligible?

If you don’t qualify for a free NHS flu jab, it doesn’t mean you can’t protect yourself and your family, friends and co-workers from getting the virus. Many pharmacies offer paid-for private vaccines – ask your local Careway pharmacy for details.

In the meantime you can also help prevent the spread of the flu virus by catching coughs and sneezes in a tissue, throwing the tissue away and washing your hands (catch it, bin it, kill it).

Find your nearest participating Careway pharmacy by using our Pharmacy Finder.