Liver patients urged to make sure their vaccinations are up to date this winter

Posted on: 7th October 2020

The NHS is here to help us stay well this winter.

People with chronic liver disease have particularly poor outcomes compared with those with other underlying conditions if they do contract the flu virus.

Traditionally, there has been a poor uptake of flu vaccinations amongst chronic liver disease patients – if you have chronic liver disease you are eligible for a priority flu jab.

Vaccination is particularly important this year because:

  • if you're at higher risk from coronavirus, you're also more at risk of problems from flu
  • if you get flu and coronavirus at the same time, research shows you're more likely to be seriously ill
  • it'll help to reduce pressure on the NHS and social care staff who may be dealing with coronavirus

We’re urging liver patients to make sure they are up to date with two vaccines to help protect them from getting ill this winter: the flu vaccine and the pneumococcal (pneumonia) vaccine.

Read on to find out if you should get either one, or both, of these vaccinations this year.

Flu vaccine

What does the flu vaccine protect against?

The flu vaccine helps protect against flu and its complications. However, flu can be more severe in:

  • people with an underlying health condition such as liver disease
  • people with weakened immune systems
  • anyone aged 65 and over
  • pregnant women

Should I be vaccinated against it?

This year, the flu vaccination programme is being expanded to include more people than ever before.

  • adults 65 and over
  • people with certain medical conditions, including chronic (over six months) liver disease
  • people living with someone who's at high risk from coronavirus (on the NHS shielded patient list)
  • children aged 2 and 3 on 31 August 2020
  • children in primary school
  • children in year 7 (secondary school)
  • frontline health or social care workers
  • pregnant women

Later in the year, the flu vaccine will be given to people aged 50 to 64. However, if you're aged 50 to 64 and in an at-risk group, you should not delay having your flu vaccine.

Where can I get vaccinated?

You can get a flu vaccination at your GP, at a pharmacy offering the service or your midwifery service if they offer it for pregnant women.

Pneumococcal vaccine

The pneumococcal vaccine is different from the flu jab as it is not an annual vaccination - you only usually need to be given a single dose.  However, if you have liver disease, you should check that you have had it. This is particularly important this year as if you get pneumonia and Covid-19 at the same time you are more likely to be seriously ill.

What does the pneumococcal vaccine protect against?

This vaccine protects against serious and potentially fatal pneumococcal infections. It's also known as the pneumonia vaccine.

There are two types of pneumococcal vaccination:

-           pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPV) - This one-off vaccination is very effective at protecting you against serious forms of pneumococcal infection.

-           Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) is given to babies as part of their routine childhood vaccination programme

 Should I be vaccinated against it?

A pneumococcal infection can affect anyone. But some people are at higher risk of serious illness, so it's recommended they're given the pneumococcal vaccination on the NHS.

These include:

  • babies
  • adults aged 65 or over
  • children and adults with certain long-term health conditions
  • chronic liver disease, such as liver cirrhosis
  • a suppressed immune system caused by a health condition
  • a suppressed immune system caused by medicines, such as steroid tablets

You can find a full list of people who are recommended the vaccine on the NHS website.

Where can I get vaccinated?

If you are at increased risk of pneumococcal infection, you will be invited to have a single dose of the PPV vaccine by your GP.

If you think you should have had the vaccination but haven’t been invited for one, please get in touch with your GP to check.