This year’s annual flu vaccine will offer protection against three or four of the influenza viruses expected to be in circulation this flu season.

Healthcare workers and influenza

Getting an influenza vaccine — though not 100% effective — is the best way to prevent the misery of the flu and its complications. The HSE reports that at least 20% of healthcare workers get the flu every year.

Everyone working in a healthcare setting should get the flu vaccine and this includes home care workers.

Other benefits of getting a flu vaccine

Even when the vaccine doesn’t entirely prevent the flu, it may lessen the severity of your illness, and reduce the risk of serious complications and serious illness requiring hospitalisation.

The flu vaccine does not protect you from getting COVID-19. However, it is especially important to get the flu vaccine this season because the flu and COVID-19 cause similar symptoms. Flu vaccination could reduce symptoms that might be confused with those caused by COVID-19. Preventing the flu and reducing the severity of flu illness and hospitalisations could also lessen the number of people needing to stay in the hospital.

How quickly does the vaccine work?

It takes up to two weeks to build immunity after a flu shot, but you can benefit from the vaccine even if you don’t get it until after the flu season starts. It’s usually best for people in Ireland  to get their flu vaccine in September and October, and aim to get it by the end of October. However, you can still protect yourself against late flu outbreaks if you get the vaccine, even in January or later.

Why do I need to get vaccinated every year?

Getting a flu shot often protects you from contracting this year’s strain of flu. And although the flu shot doesn’t always give full protection, it’s worth getting.

Because flu viruses evolve so quickly, last year’s vaccine may not protect you from this year’s viruses. New flu vaccines are released every year to keep up with rapidly adapting flu viruses.

When you get vaccinated, your immune system produces antibodies to protect you from the viruses included in the vaccine. But antibody levels may decline over time — another reason to get a flu shot every year.

Increasing flu vaccination by healthcare professionals

This year the HSE aims to achieve a target of 75% flu vaccine uptake among healthcare workers.

Prevention and control procedures, such as hand washing, are essential in healthcare settings but they will not prevent flu. Vaccination is the best protection.

For more information about the flu vaccine for healthcare workers, visit the HSE’s website here.