Should I have the flu jab?

Dr Mark Porter / 29 August 2018

Dr Mark Porter answers a reader who is concerned that the influenza vaccination may offer little protection to older people.

Q: Is it really worth having a flu jab? I am offered one only because I’m 67, being otherwise fit and well. However, last year a doctor friend told me that the vaccine offers little or no protection to older people.

A: Your friend has a point. There is no convincing evidence that the standard flu jab offers much protection to people such as you because your immune system doesn’t respond to it as well as younger people. So you can have the jab but not develop immunity and can still catch flu – albeit hopefully suffering a milder bout. And I am afraid that ‘old’ in immune terms is anything over 50.

Another problem last year was the emergence of a strain not in the standard jab, so even if your immune system responded perfectly you would not have been protected. But this is unusual and we should be OK this year as an improved vaccine is now available. It contains something to boost the immune response in older people, and you should be offered this ‘adjuvanted’ jab when vaccination starts in October.

Time will tell what difference it makes, but the adjuvanted jab is the best protection available for older people and I will be recommending it to my patients.

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