What is Influenza (Flu)?
Influenza is an acute viral infection which affects the respiratory tract and has systemic symptoms. It is caused by a virus which infects humans, animals, and birds.
What are the signs and symptoms of flu?
Most people do not experience any symptoms. Some people may have mild, moderate, or severe symptoms. Onset is sudden, and symptoms include:
In the majority, symptoms last for 3 to 5 days. Patients rapidly recover, although some feel weak and lethargic for several weeks
Why should I get the flu vaccine?
Some people are more likely to develop complications if they contract influenza. It is important for these “high-risk” patients to receive their flu vaccination annually
The seasonal flu vaccine (flu jab) protects against 4 strains of flu virus. These are the strains most likely to be circulating this flu season.
The vaccine is available every year to adults and children at risk of flu and its complications.
You need to get a new vaccine every Autumn. Book vaccine This is because the strains of the flu virus change. This is why it is called seasonal flu. But people commonly call it flu.
You should get your flu vaccine during the Autumn, to be covered for flu season.
What is shingles?
Shingles is caused by the same virus as chickenpox – the herpes-zoster virus. Once you have the virus, it remains in your body, and can become active again in later life where it develops into shingles.
Of the 95% of adults who’ve had chickenpox, around a quarter will go on to develop shingles* – and it’s more likely to happen as you get older. It can be reactivated when your immune system weakens due to increasing age, stress, or certain conditions and treatments e.g. cancer or HIV.
Shingles can be very painful and the older you are, the worse it can be. Although most people fully recover from shingles, some can be left with long-term nerve pain that continues for months or even years after the blisters and rash have healed – this is called post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN). The older you are, the higher the chance of developing PHN as a result of shingles.
Why get a shingles vaccination?
The vaccine not only helps reduce your risk of developing shingles, but can lessen the severity and duration of any symptoms if you do, as well as cutting your risk of developing PHN.
The are two shingles vaccines currently available in Ireland, one is a live vaccine called Zostavax (given as one dose) and the other is a recombinant vaccine called Shingrix (given as a two dose).
- Studies have shown that four months after two doses of the Shingrix vaccine that its efficacy at preventing shingles was as follows:**
- Aged 50 to 69 years 100%
- Aged 70 to 79 years 93%
- Aged 80 years and older 71%
- Studies have shown that three months after one dose of the Zostavax vaccine that its efficacy at preventing shingles was as follows:**
- Aged 50 to 59 years 70%
- Aged 60 to 69 years 64%
- Aged 60 to 79 years 41%
- Aged 80 years and older 41% at 5 years
• If you do get shingles, the vaccine can also help reduce the severity of the symptoms and also the risk of developing post herpetic neuralgia (PHN), the long-lasting nerve pain that follows shingles.
How can I access the vaccination service?
To avail of the vaccination service, simply book an appointment online for one of the shingles vaccines, for a time that’s convenient for you.
What is pneumococcal disease?
Pneumococcal disease is the term used to describe a range of illnesses caused by the Streptococcus pneumoniae bug such as pneumonia, septicaemia (blood poisoning) and meningitis (inflammation around the brain). Many people carry the bacteria in their nose and throat without causing any harm but sometimes the bacteria can invade the lungs and bloodstream.
The bacteria are spread from person to person by coughing, sneezing or close contact. Pneumococcal vaccination is not recommended for healthy adults (aged under 65 years) as they are at low risk of pneumococcal disease.
Who should get the pneumococcal vaccine?
There are two different pneumococcal vaccines available and the HSE outline the persons for whom vaccination is recommended on their website. The Boots vaccination service refers to the Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPV23) and is offered to adults aged 18 years and over.
- In adults the vaccination is recommended for everybody aged 65 years and over and for persons aged 18 and over with:
- Chronic lung, heart or liver disease
- Chronic neurological disease
- Down Syndrome
- Coeliac disease*
- Chronic renal disease or nephrotic syndrome*
- Cochlear implants or are about to get cochlear implants*
- Immune deficiency because of a disease or treatment, including cancer patients*
- HIV infection*
- Absent spleen or a non-functioning spleen*
- Complement deficiency*
- CSF leaks, either congenital or complicating skull fractures or neurosurgery*
- Intracranial shunt*
- Persons who smoke**
- Those with alcohol dependence**
- Those who are exposed to metal fumes through their work (i.e. welders)**
*Some patients require vaccination with the pneuomoccal conjugate vaccine (PCV) before receiving PPV23. Note that PCV vaccination is not available as part of this service so such patients will be referred to an alternate location for vaccination (e.g. GP).
Who should NOT get the pneumococcal vaccine?
You shouldn’t have the vaccine if you have had an allergic reaction to a previous dose or to any part of the vaccine.
I think I’ve had the vaccine before, do I need another one?
Most people will only need this vaccine once. However, re-vaccination is recommended for some people and this will depend on your age and if you have any risk factors.
Ask your pharmacist to check if you are recommended to get the pneumococcal vaccine. To ensure the vaccine is suitable for you at this time we will need to confirm your pneumococcal vaccine history with your doctor.
How can I access the vaccination service?
To avail of the vaccination service, simply phone or call into your local Boots pharmacy and a member of the pharmacy team will check your eligibility and arrange an appointment for a time that’s convenient for you.
• This vaccine protects against 23 types of pneumococcal disease including those most likely to cause severe disease and most people only need to receive the vaccine once
• Most adults will be protected by the vaccine after 3 weeks
• If you are aged under 65 years a booster vaccination (usually given 5 years after the first) may be recommended if you have a condition where your antibody levels are likely to decline rapidly e.g. no spleen, or a condition that weakens your immune system
• You cannot get pneumococcal disease from the vaccine, as it does not contain live bacteria
• The pneumococcal vaccine reduces the risk of getting severe forms of pneumococcal disease such as pneumonia, meningitis and septicaemia