Why you need the flu vaccine

09 November 2020

With winter snapping at our heels it’s time to think about protecting yourself from flu, and this year it's more important than ever due to the risk of serious illness if you get flu and coronavirus at the same time.



Getting a flu jab during Covid-19

A word from Douglas Twenefour, Deputy Head of Care, Diabetes UK

In any year, a bad flu season can place great strain on the NHS. In 2017 – 2018, the flu season led to 22,000 deaths in this country. However, the risk is particularly pertinent this year with Covid-19 making the flu potentially more dangerous.

In response to the increased threat of flu, caused by Covid-19, the public has been getting the flu jab at an astonishing rate. For instance, Tesco Pharmacy has seen 148% increase in jab uptake from those under the age of 65 with long term health conditions, like diabetes, heart and circulatory diseases and cancer. This means they are taking an important step to reduce their risk of becoming seriously unwell from flu this winter. It's important all vulnerable groups get the flu jab. Typically, fewer than one in two people in this vulnerable group tend to get the jab.

In fact, most vulnerable groups, like those under 65 with long-term health conditions or pregnant women, tend to suffer from low uptake rates. Historically, just one group can be relied upon to get the jab: those over 65.

Yet we are seeing worrying signs that, at a time when the jab is more important than ever, uptake rates may be lower in this group. Data shows that compared to last year, the number of people over 65 getting the jab is down.

This needs to change. Pharmacies have stocks reserved to help protect older groups as we head into November – stocks that are not being used up.

At Diabetes UK, we are working with Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation, to support Tesco Pharmacy’s biggest ever flu vaccination campaign. The pharmacy is aiming to make getting the jab as easy as a weekly shop, having launched a new online booking service and with many in-store pharmacies open at weekends and evenings.

Tesco Pharmacy has a good level of stock of the ‘Over 65s’ vaccine, there are plenty of appointments available and those who need it can get help from expert in-store pharmacists when booking their appointment if they’d rather not booking online.

While it’s true that the measures we’re already taking to reduce our risk of Covid-19 – keeping our distance, wearing face marks, and taking greater care to wash our hands – are also effective in reducing our risk of flu, there’s no vaccine for Covid-19, so getting the readily-available flu jab is an important step in giving us even greater protection from becoming seriously unwell this winter.

Flu can be very serious and if you get flu and coronavirus at the same time, research shows you're more likely to be very unwell. The flu vaccine gives the best protection against flu.

Some may be concerned about entering a pharmacy or health centre when Covid-19 rates are rising. However, these places are designed to be as safe as possible. Tesco Pharmacy, for instance, enforces strict social distancing, the wearing of masks and regular cleaning.

If you're over the age of 65 or in one of the high risk groups of being very unwell with flu, and able to get the jab, it’s vital to do so. Flu can develop into bronchitis and pneumonia, which might require hospital admission.

If your loved ones are at risk, please remind them to get the flu jab. And, if you need it, do get it. Getting the flu jab is the best way reduce your risk of becoming seriously unwell and needing to go into hospital – which is even more important this year in light of coronavirus.

Who should get a flu jab?

Age and poor health put you at greater risk of dying because of flu. If you are 65 years old and over, or have long-term health problems, you should have the flu jab. Ask your GP whether you should have a flu jab through the NHS if you have any of these health problems:

If any of these apply to you, it means that you’re especially vulnerable to the flu virus. If you fit into any of these categories it’s important that you are vaccinated against flu every year. 

What is flu?

Flu – the name we often use for influenza, is a viral infection of the respiratory tract – your nose, mouth, throat, and lungs.

The symptoms include:

  • headaches
  • sneezing
  • a dry cough
  • sore throat
  • joint and muscle aches and pains
  • a high temperature
  • feeling sick
  • sweating

How to cure a cold: the golden rules

One of the main problems with flu is that it is easy to catch, and to pass on, even if you don’t have any symptoms.

You can pass flu on simply by sneezing or coughing. If you’re infected, the droplets that you expel can easily infect other people.

Someone else could catch the flu just by touching a droplet from a cough or sneeze.

This is why it’s important to have the flu vaccination. It can help prevent you from catching flu, and help stop you passing it on to others.

How to avoid catching a cold

How does the flu vaccine work?

There are three different types of flu virus, known as A, B, and C.

 A and B are responsible for most cases of flu in the UK.

Type A tends to be the most serious because it can transform into a strain that people don’t have resistance to.

Type B is usually less serious, and tends to affect young children rather than adults.

Type C is the mildest virus out of the three, and the symptoms are similar to having a cold.

Get rid of colds and flu with these foods

A new flu vaccine is created every year, so that it can target the flu strains that are those most likely to affect us over the next twelve months.

Each year the flu vaccine is created to give protection against the flu strains that the World Health Organisation (WHO), in collaboration with scientists around the world, feels are likely to be the most widespread this winter.

Having the flu vaccination doesn’t guarantee that you won’t catch the flu, but this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t bother having it.

The flu jab can give you protection against a virus that can make you seriously ill. People die because of flu complications every year.

Having the flu jab each year means that you are less likely to have the flu.

When and where to have your flu jab

If you are over 65, and/or have a condition that could put you at greater risk of catching flu, contact your GP surgery from October onwards and ask about having a flu vaccination.

Some community pharmacies also offer the flu jab to adults at extra risk from flu, so it’s worth asking if your local community pharmacy does.

You can also get the flu from pharmacies such as Boots, Asda, Superdrug and Tesco.

Want to talk to a GP today? With Saga Health Insurance, you have unlimited access to a qualified GP 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Find out more about our GP phone service.


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.