Q. I thought the flu was just a bad cold – do I really need to be vaccinated?
A. Colds and flu are caused by different strains of virus and the effects vary hugely. Colds come on gradually (runny nose, then sore throat, then a cough) but flu hits you straight away and most commonly with a fever. Flu is a much more dangerous virus which can lead to serious infections and illness. It’s a contagious disease of the respiratory tract (nose, throat, and lungs) that can lead to complications including pneumonia, bronchitis, meningitis and encephalitis. It can cause worsening of chronic conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes. Amongst even healthy people flu can disrupt your work and social plans for up to two weeks and you can expect to have a fever, headaches, extreme tiredness, cough, sore throat, nasal congestion, and body aches. People of all ages are seriously affected by flu every year.
Q. How does the flu spread?
A. People who have the flu can spread the virus by coughing or sneezing. Droplets released when a sick person coughs, sneezes, or talks can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. The droplets can also be inhaled into the lungs. People may also catch the flu by touching their mouth or nose after touching something with the virus on it, such as doorknobs, tables, or an infected person’s dirty hand.
Q. I had the flu vaccine last year, why do I need a new flu vaccine every year?
A. A flu vaccine is needed every season for two reasons. First, the body’s immune response from vaccination declines over time, so an annual vaccine is needed for optimal protection. Second, because flu viruses are constantly changing, the formulation of the flu vaccine is reviewed each year and sometimes updated to keep up with changing flu viruses. For the best protection, everyone 6 months and older should get vaccinated annually.
Q. I’ve heard that the flu vaccine can give me the flu, is that true?
A. Flu vaccines CANNOT cause the flu. Flu vaccines are made with either killed or weakened viruses. The most common side effect that a person is likely to experience is soreness where the injection was given. This is generally mild and usually goes away after a day or two.
Q. Is the flu vaccine safe for pregnant women?
A. When you’re pregnant, your immune system changes, so women are at greater risk of complications from flu, such as having a miscarriage or going into premature labour. The flu vaccine will protect you and your unborn child and it can also protect your baby for three months after birth, providing extra peace of mind during that crucial first stage. Pregnant women who contract flu are five times more likely to have a stillborn baby in the first week following birth. They are also three times more likely to deliver prematurely.
Q. I exercise and eat healthy, and rarely get sick, so do I need to get vaccinated?
A. The flu can spread when a sick person coughs, sneezes or talks, and can also be transmitted on surfaces that are touched by both sick and healthy people. Even healthy people can be infected with the flu virus without showing any symptoms.
Q. I read that the flu vaccine hasn’t been tested, and it’s not safe, is this true?
A. All vaccines, including flu vaccines, have to be tested before they can be licensed to be used in Qatar, and they have to be licensed before they can be used. Also remember that flu vaccines are one of most commonly administered medicines. Like all medicines, some patients will experience side effects to flu vaccination, but these are generally mild and usually resolve without treatment.