By Dr. Clare Brehmer, Specialist Registrar in Public Health.
Our trainee Doctor Clare was lucky enough to sit down with Councillor Arnold England and talk to him about his opinions on the Flu Jab and why it is that he keeps coming back for one, every year. Arnold is Borough Councillor for Brookside and also has special responsibility for Communities, Health & Wellbeing across Telford.
Why do you choose to get the Flu Jab every year?
Primarily because I’m asthmatic and when I get any virus/cold I have to be ultra-careful that it doesn’t go on my chest, so I take lots of precautions and one of them is a flu jab. I used to work with special needs adults and traumatized children and in that care system, you should have the flu jab. So they’re the main reasons, plus the fact I have had the flu!
How did it make you feel when you had the flu?
I’ve had the flu probably about three times in my life, and when you have it, you know about it! Most people who think they’ve got the flu actually have a heavy cold. When you’ve got the flu you are really out!
I remember the last time I had flu, which was probably about 15 years ago, one afternoon I felt awful and I went to lie on the bed and I woke up fully dressed the next afternoon -it just knocked me out! You just feel washed out, completely dead, and then if there is a chest infection associated with it then that’s it, I have to go on steroids! So I am ultra-careful and have the flu jab religiously.
Did you have a fever? Did you feel achey?
I was just dead to the world. I did feel achey. I remember I worked in a factory once and I was on a night shift and it came on me and everything ached -I couldn’t actually go back to work, I had to go home.
When it comes to workplaces, illness like the flu can have a devastating impact. Within Telford and Wrekin Council we have had to trim down the staff to meet the austerity cuts. If we were to lose 10% of our work force through a severe flu that would make it extremely difficult to provide the services we provide.
We need to encourage all our staff to make sure they have the flu jab because you can be out for at least a week and in a pared-down organization it’s even more important for people to be well.
How are you informed about the flu jab every year? Do you receive a letter from your GP inviting you in or do you just remember yourself?
I remember because not only am I mildly asthmatic but I’m also type 2 diabetic so that’s another reason..and I’m over 65 so that’s three reasons! So I remember but I don’t have to remember anymore because now there is so much more publicity. I come in here [the council] and they’re talking about flu jabs and I thought “Oh yes, I must go and book mine!” so I go to the GP and I booked my flu jab.
It’s now automatic but it’s more than just me -I tell my family. Both my sons work and travel from place to place for their work so they will be interacting with lots of people. The youngest son is a senior manager of a children’s home care company so he’s interacting with the youngsters all the time. And of course I’m getting older and I don’t want them getting the flu and giving me something!
Have you ever had any side effects from the flu jab?
There was one time a few years ago when I had the jab and I felt under the weather – just not feeling very awake, not feeling very bright, just feeling lazy…but not seriously unwell.
Knowing what I know now, which is that the flu jab contains a dead virus so that it is impossible to get the flu from it, I think its more likely to have been a coincidence! I was probably getting unwell anyway and it just happened to be around the time that I had my flu jab. I can see why someone might think it was the jab that caused it, but it wouldn’t have been.
People who have asthma or another condition that puts them in a high-risk group can have the flu jab for free on the NHS. What would you say to the average person, who isn’t high risk, to encourage them to get a flu jab anyway?
The first thought that comes to mind is all those ‘average’ people are probably working age and will probably have a family. Some of the family will be older, some of the family might be younger (like little children) and there’s a good reason to protect yourself so that you can protect them.It’s those people around you you’re protecting rather than protecting yourself in my view.
If you’re visiting your Mum over Christmas and she’s 80 or 70 and you give her the flu, you might not be seeing her in the New Year.
If there is a way to avoid a serious illness if only for a short while, then take advantage of it! You may want to pay for it privately, and many pharmacies offer this, or they may find that their workplace offers the flu jab for free.
To find out more about the flu jab, including who is eligible to receive it free, click here.