COVID-19 and Seasonal Flu Vaccination 2023/24 - Frequently Asked Questions
Why should I get the flu and COVID-19 vaccines?
Flu and COVID-19 vaccines have good safety records and are an effective way to protect yourself from the Flu and COVID-19 viruses.
While flu and COVID-19 can be unpleasant, for some it can be very dangerous and even life-threatening, particularly for people with certain health conditions, older people and pregnant women. For them, it can increase the risk of developing more serious illnesses such as bronchitis and pneumonia or can make existing conditions worse. Every winter, thousands die from flu and people can still get very ill or die from COVID-19.
Children aged under five have one of the highest hospitalisation rates for flu. Last year over 6,000 children under five in England were hospitalised by flu, and many more needed care in the Emergency Department. The vaccine reduces a child’s chance of needing hospital care for flu by around two thirds.
Having your flu and COVID-19 vaccinations will reduce your risk of serious illness and help you recover more quickly if you catch the viruses. The vaccines help to prevent thousands of hospitalisations and deaths and help protect our health services and the people in our community who are most vulnerable.
In winter, flu and COVID-19 spread more easily as we spend more time indoors. Getting these vaccines ahead of winter are two of the most important things you can do to keep yourself and others around you safe.
Why should I get the COVID-19 booster?
When should I get the flu and COVID-19 vaccines?
The autumn programme will start on Island the week commencing 11 September 2023.
Flu and COVID-19 spread more easily in winter as we spend more time indoors. Catching both viruses over winter increases the risk of serious illness even further. It is therefore important that you get the vaccination as soon as it is offered.
This year, Manx Care is offering the flu vaccine to children from September to protect them and help prevent the spread of the virus. This is because children are more likely to pass this on to others including elderly or vulnerable relatives.
How is it decided who is eligible to get the flu and COVID-19 vaccines each year?
The flu and COVID-19 vaccine programmes aim to reduce the number of people that get seriously ill and reduce the spread of the viruses. The government decide which groups will be eligible for vaccines through Manx Care. Their decision is based on the independent advice of clinical experts in the JCVI who review the latest clinical evidence and data.
If I have had a flu or COVID-19 vaccine before, do I need to get it again?
If you are eligible for the flu or COVID-19 vaccine based on the current recommendations, it is important to top up your protection, even if you have had a vaccine or been ill with flu or COVID-19 before, as immunity fades over time and flu and COVID-19 viruses change each year.
The vaccines give you additional protection to that gained from previous infections. If you have had COVID-19 recently you will still get extra protection from the vaccine, but you will need to wait four weeks before getting vaccinated.
Could I still get flu and COVID-19 after having the vaccines?
No vaccine is 100% effective – some people may still get flu or COVID-19 despite getting vaccinated but this should be less severe with milder symptoms. It may take a few days for your body to build up protection from the vaccines. Having your flu and COVID-19 vaccinations will reduce your risk of serious illness and may help you recover more quickly if you catch the viruses.
Why do I keep needing to have ‘booster’ doses of the COVID-19 vaccine?
The COVID-19 vaccine is given to top up the protection in those at higher risk from severe COVID-19 illness to help prevent people being hospitalised or dying from COVID-19 over winter 2023/24. During the pandemic, COVID-19 disproportionately affected those in older age groups, residents in care homes for older adults, and those with certain underlying health conditions, particularly those who are severely immunosuppressed which is why we vaccinate them regularly to ‘top up’ their protection.
Can I have the flu and COVID-19 vaccines together?
The JCVI has advised that, for most people, it is fine to have the flu and COVID-19 vaccines at the same time. Where possible, we encourage you to get both vaccines in the same appointment to ensure you are protected against both viruses.
If this is not possible, we encourage you to get each vaccine as soon as you can, rather than waiting to get both at the same time. If you receive both vaccines in one appointment but originally booked two, please do cancel the other appointment so that it becomes available for someone else.
Are the vaccines safe?
The flu and COVID-19 vaccines have a good safety record, and their side effects are generally mild and do not last for more than a few days. Your safety will always come first and there are rigorous safety standards that have to be met through the approval process.
As with any medicine, vaccines are highly regulated products. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the official UK regulator are globally recognised for requiring the highest standards of safety, quality and effectiveness for medicines and vaccines. There are checks at every stage in the development and manufacturing process. Each of the vaccines are tested on tens of thousands of people across the world. They are tested on both men and women, on people from different ethnic backgrounds, and of all age groups.
Like any other vaccine or medicine, the flu and COVID-19 vaccines are being continuously monitored for safety – the effected benefits of the vaccines far outweigh risk in the majority of patients. You and your healthcare professional can report any suspected side effects online through the tried and trusted Yellow Card Scheme; or by calling 0800 731 6789; or registering and downloading the Yellow Card app.
How do vaccines work?
Vaccines teach your immune system how to create antibodies that protect you from diseases. It's usually much safer for your immune system to learn this through vaccination than by catching the diseases and treating them. Once your immune system knows how to fight a disease, it can respond more quickly and more effectively to protect you.
Are there any side effects from the vaccines?
Flu and COVID-19 vaccines have a good safety record. All adult flu and COVID-19 vaccines are given by injection into the muscle of the upper arm.
Most side effects are mild and only last for a day or so, such as:
- having a painful, heavy feeling and tenderness in the arm where you had your injection This tends to be worst around a day or two following the vaccination
- feeling tired
- general aches, or mild flu-like symptoms
Try these tips to help reduce the discomfort:
- continue to move your arm regularly
- take a painkiller, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen – some people, including those who are pregnant, should not take ibuprofen unless a doctor recommends it
Symptoms following vaccination normally last less than a week. If you experience a high temperature, if your symptoms seem to get worse or if you are concerned, call your health care practitioner.
You should seek medical advice urgently if, after vaccination, you experience:
- chest pain
- shortness of breath
- feelings of having a fast-beating, fluttering, or pounding heart
You can report suspected side effects of vaccines and medicines through the Yellow Card Scheme:
What type of flu vaccine will I be given?
- adults are offered an injectable vaccine. There are different types, including low-egg and egg-free ones
- adults aged 65 years and over – the most common flu vaccine contains an extra ingredient to help your immune system make a stronger response to the vaccine
Most children over the age of two are offered a nasal spray vaccine – this is given as a quick and painless spray up the nose. Those aged under two and a small number of children due to pre-existing medical conditions or treatments cannot have the nasal spray and are offered protection through an injected vaccine instead.
What type of COVID-19 vaccine will I be given?
There are several different COVID-19 vaccines in use. They have all met strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness. Most people can have any of the COVID-19 vaccines and will be offered a vaccine that gives protection from more than one type of COVID-19. You cannot choose which vaccine you have.
Some people are only offered certain vaccines, for example:
- if you're pregnant
- if you're under 18 years old
- if you're 75 years old or over
- in very rare cases if you’ve had a severe allergic reaction to one of the common vaccines you may be referred to a specialist clinic for an alternative COVID-19 vaccine
Can I have the vaccine if I feel unwell?
If you are unwell, wait until you have recovered to have your vaccine. You should not attend an appointment if you have a fever or think you might be infectious to others.
Should I get the vaccines if I think I have already had flu or COVID-19?
If you think you've already had flu or COVID-19, once you've recovered you should still get the vaccines as they will still help protect you.
Is there anyone that shouldn’t get the vaccines?
Almost everybody can have the vaccines, but you should not be vaccinated if you have ever had a serious allergy (e.g. anaphylaxis) to any of the flu or COVID-19 vaccines, or any of their ingredients – you should discuss this with your doctor or pharmacist.
If you are allergic to eggs you may not be able to have certain types of flu vaccine – check with your immuniser. If you have a fever, the vaccination may be delayed until you are better.
I’ve only just had my first or second COVID-19 vaccine, can I have the autumn booster jab?
No, the JCVI advises that the booster vaccine should be offered no earlier than three months after completion of the primary vaccine course.
I am not in one of the eligible groups and haven’t yet had the COVID-19 vaccination, can I still get my first jabs?
Currently, only children aged 6 months to four years old who are at increased risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19 can currently get a COVID-19 vaccine.
Since the end of the spring 2023 COVID-19 campaign, the primary course of COVID-19 vaccine became a targeted offer to those at higher risk and only during seasonal campaigns. This means that the primary course COVID-19 vaccination is only available to the groups eligible for the autumn campaign.
The main exception to this would be unvaccinated individuals aged five years and above who have recently become severely immunosuppressed. These individuals should be considered for primary vaccination, regardless of the time of year. Clinical judgement should be used to decide on the best timing to commence vaccination.
How do I get my COVID-19 vaccine as a frontline health and social care worker?
Frontline health and social care workers will be asked to book their own appointments for any available session using the online booking system or by calling 111. Frontline health and social care workers can also attend any walk-in session. Walk-in sessions will be advertised when the schedule has been confirmed.