Vaccine available to fight swine flu

Ten facts about the Swine Flu Vaccine that people with chronic medical conditions should know

Ten facts about the Swine Flu Vaccine that people with chronic medical conditions should know

 In a major step, there is now a vaccine available to fight swine flu – this is the first pandemic for which we have had vaccine to protect people. 

The vaccine uses an inactivated form of the virus so it can not make you sick. The vaccine will work by tricking the immune system into thinking it has been infected with the H1N1 swine flu virus so that it creates antibodies against it.

Children and adults who have long term health conditions which may weaken their immune system or make them more susceptible to complications from swine flu will be among the first to be vaccinated.

At-risk groups include those with chronic respiratory disease, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), chronic heart disease, such as heart failure, chronic kidney disease, such as kidney failure, chronic liver disease, such as chronic hepatitis, chronic neurological disease, such as Parkinson's disease, or diabetes requiring insulin or oral hypoglycaemic drugs.

People who live with those whose immune systems are compromised by a disease or treatment for a disease, such as cancer patients or people with HIV/AIDS will also be offered the vaccination.

People in at-risk groups are far more likely to develop serious health complications if they catch swine flu. These include pneumonia (an infection of the lungs), difficulty breathing and in the very worst cases, may result in death. The common side effects of the vaccine are a sore arm, fatigue, headache or dizziness.

The swine flu vaccine is different to the seasonal flu vaccination, which will not protect against swine flu. If those in an at-risk group are normally advised to have the seasonal flu vaccine every winter, they need to continue to receive this to ensure they are protected against most of the flu strains in circulation. The swine flu vaccine can be given at the same time as the seasonal flu jab.

Frontline health and social workers will also be offered the vaccine at the same time as the first clinical at-risk groups. It is important to note that health and social care workers are both at an increased risk of catching swine and flu and of spreading it to other at-risk patients.

You can only be certain that you have had swine flu if it was confirmed by a laboratory test. Otherwise, you may have had normal flu or something else. Unless you know for sure that you have had swine flu, and are in one of the high-risk groups, you should have the vaccination.

If you are in one of the at-risk groups, you will be contacted by your GP inviting you to go to an immunisation clinic or make an appointment at their surgery – either by letter or in some instances by text or phone (depending on postal strikes).



 The swine flu pandemic is being closely monitored by the Department of Health. You can sign up for email alerts on the latest here:, or visit further information. 

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