Don’t forget to get the flu jab before winter

Posted on: 21st October 2019

If you have liver disease, it’s really important that you get the annual flu jab. You are entitled to have it free on the NHS.

Catching flu doesn’t just mean a couple of days in bed – it can be very serious if you have an underlying health condition.  Evidence suggests people with chronic liver disease are particularly at risk from flu and historically these people are also less likely to be vaccinated than people with other long term conditions.

Chills, fever, nasal and sinus congestion, sore throat and extreme fatigue are all common symptoms of flu, but if you have liver disease,  flu could develop into something more serious, such as bronchitis or pneumonia, which in rare cases can be fatal.

The flu vaccine is a simple and effective way to protect against the virus. The jab is quick, easy and safe. Once you’ve received the vaccination, it will take around ten days to work and will protect you from flu for about a year.

It's important to know that if you are taking medication that affects your immune system, for example if you have had a transplant, have an autoimmune condition, or are having treatment for cancer, there are different types of flu jab this year.

It's really important that you fully inform your GP, practice nurse or pharmacist of any diagnosis that you have and any medications that you are on so they will be sure to give you the appropriate vaccine.

The British Liver Trust has asked Public Health England for specific advice on this issue. This advice is quite technical but we have reproduced it below so that you can show this to the healthcare professional that is providing the vaccination if you need to.

Advice from Public Health England

For people aged under 65 years, the recommended vaccine is an injected quadrivalent influenza vaccine (QIV) which offers protection against four strains of flu virus. There are two types of QIV flu vaccine recommended for those under 65 this year: one has been grown in eggs and the other in cells. Both are equally suitable for those in this age group and you can receive whichever vaccine your GP or pharmacist has in stock.

For people aged 65 years and over, there are two recommended vaccines: an adjuvanted trivalent injected vaccine grown in eggs (aTIV) or a cell grown quadrivalent injected vaccine (QIVc). The adjuvanted vaccine is safe and likely to be more effective in this age group, particularly those who are immunosuppressed (e.g. following a transplant). There is no evidence of an association between the adjuvanted vaccine and autoimmune disease.

For a small number of patients on “immune checkpoint inhibitors”, some specialist consultants are recommending not to have the adjuvanted vaccine. If your consultant has specifically recommended this then you should ask your GP or pharmacist for the QIVc vaccine – we suggest you phone in advance to make sure it is in stock - it is important that you receive the vaccine before flu starts to circulate in December.

You can find more general information about the flu vaccine on the NHS website.