Here’s how effective the flu vaccine is - and the myth that it can give you the flu debunked

Health experts are urging those who are eligible to get the flu vaccine to do so (Photo: Shutterstock)

As winter approaches, health experts are urging those who are eligible to get the flu vaccine to do so, amid fears that contracting flu and coronavirus could be extremely dangerous.

Concerns over co-infection have meant the flu vaccination programme is being expanded this year to allow more people to receive it for free, including those aged between 55 and 64 in Scotland, or 50 and 64 in the rest of the UK.

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But is the flu vaccine safe? Here’s everything you need to know.

How safe is the flu vaccine?

According to the NHS, flu vaccines are very safe. Some people may experience some side effects following the vaccination, although these are typically mild and only last for a day or two.

Common side effects include:

Slightly raised temperatureMuscle achesA sore arm where the needle went in - this is more common among people aged 65 and over and can be alleviated with painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen

Most adults can have the vaccine, but it should be avoided if you have had a serious allergic reaction to a flu vaccine in the past.

People with an egg allergy may be at serious risk of an allergic reaction, as some flu vaccines are made using eggs. If you have an egg allergy, make sure to ask your GP or pharmacist for a low-egg or egg-free vaccine.

Additionally, if you are ill with a high temperature, you should wait until you are better before receiving the vaccine.

Is it safe to go to the doctors amid the pandemic?

Doctors have said it is safe to visit your GP surgery or local pharmacy to get the flu vaccine amid the ongoing pandemic, providing social distancing protocols are maintained where possible.

The flu vaccine will not protect against coronavirus, but it has been shown to reduce the risk of flu illness, hospitalisation and death.

Is the vaccine effective?

The NHS states that the flu vaccine is the most effective protection against flu, helping to protect against the main types of flu viruses. However, there is still a chance you could catch the virus.

If you do become ill with the flu after vaccination, it is likely to be milder and not last as long.

Having the vaccine will also help to prevent the virus spreading to others who may be at more risk of serious health problems from the flu.

It can take between 10 and 14 days for the flu vaccine to work.

Can the vaccine give you flu?

None of the flu vaccines contain live viruses, meaning they cannot give you the flu.

If you feel unwell after vaccination, you may have picked up another bug or caught the flu before the vaccine had worked.

Who can have the vaccine?

The full list of people who are currently eligible for the free NHS flu programme includes people who:

are 65 and over (including those who'll be 65 by 31 March 2021)have certain health conditionsare pregnantare in a long-stay residential carereceive a carer's allowance, or are the main carer for an older or disabled person who may be at risk if you get sicklive with someone who's at high risk from coronavirus (on the NHS shielded patient list)are frontline health or social care workers

This year, the vaccination programme will also be extended to include the following groups:

people who were required to shield from coronavirus and anyone they live withchildren aged 11people aged between 50 and 64, or 55 to 64 in Scotland

GP surgeries will focus on the highest risk groups first, ahead of those who are aged over 50 and in the fit and healthy range, who will be vaccinated later in the year.

The NHS will get in contact with all those who are eligible, and you can arrange an appointment.

Where can I get the vaccine?

You can have the NHS flu vaccine at:

your GP surgerya pharmacy offering the serviceyour midwifery service if you're pregnant

In Scotland, the flu vaccine is being administered differently this year and may not be at your GP surgery as normal. Depending on where you live, you may be able to get your vaccine at:

healthcare settings, such as GP practices, hospitals or community pharmaciescommunity venues, such as town halls, village halls, sports halls and secondary schoolsdrive-through or walk-through clinics

For more information, visit nhsinform.scot.

A version of this article originally appeared on our sister site, The Scotsman.