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About Flu Vaccines

About Flu Vaccines

What are Flu Vaccinations?

Flu Vaccinations are one of the simplest and most effective ways of protecting your health, productivity and peace of mind. Whether you are a private individual concerned about avoiding an unpleasant illness and its complications, looking for the best care for you and your family, or a company concerned about business continuity and the health and welfare of your staff, we have the practical experience and the specialist expertise to help you.

When do you have a flu vaccine?

The flu vaccine is normally given as early as possible in the autumn, and protection lasts through the winter and beyond, though because of mutation, “drift”, and other changes in the circulating viral strains, new vaccines are generally needed each year.

How Effective are Flu Vaccines?

Their effectiveness depends on there being a good match between the strains used to produce the vaccine, and the strains that ultimately cause infection. Seasonal flu vaccines cut the risk of infection by at least 70-90 percent. Over time, our ability to predict which strains will arrive each year – based on global surveillance by the WHO – has dramatically improved. The effectiveness of vaccines in preventing the flu is therefore constantly increasing, though sometimes we do get caught out, such as most recently during the 2014/15 flu season, when last-minute antigen changes among the predominating strains meant that the vaccine was a poor match against influenza A.

Published research data show that seasonal flu vaccination:

  • Cuts the risk of laboratory-confirmed flu infection by at least 70-90%
  • Cuts total numbers of upper respiratory infections/flu-like illnesses* by at least 25-34%
  • Cuts work loss from upper respiratory infections/flu-like illnesses* by 32-43%
  • Cuts visits to the doctor by 42-44%

(*Crude totals of colds, coughs, and all upper respiratory illnesses)



There is a tendency to think that all flu vaccines are the same. In fact there are a number of different types of vaccines currently available, with subtle differences between them, and there is much on-going research to create even further options. Here is a brief technical explanation of the main types available:

“Sub unit” or “surface antigen” vaccines contain killed flu virus surface proteins only; vaccination results in antibodies that are highly strain-specific to the vaccine viruses from which they are made.
“Split virus” or “split virion” vaccine contains fragments of whole, killed virus. Vaccination produces antibodies against strains that are an exact or very close match to the strains used to create the vaccine.

“Virosomal” vaccines contain the reconstituted virus membrane, including its outer coat, but without its core (which contains the viruses’ genetic material). Virosomal vaccines consist of virus-shaped and -sized particles. This means that they deliver killed viral particles directly inside target cells, stimulating broader and more cross-reactive protection (“cell mediated immunity”) against flu viruses in general.

“Whole virus” vaccines contain the entire killed virus. This includes its inactivated core genetic material. This technology allows them to be made from pathogenic viruses rather than genetically modified or “lookalike” strains – hence their enhanced cross-protection. Whole virus vaccines are too pathogenic to grow using traditional egg-based methods (while growing, they kill the eggs), so have to be grown in cell culture – a promising technique for the future.

The above technologies therefore make up a “hierarchy” of killed vaccines, that is decreasingly specific to the strains from which the vaccine is made, and that provides increasing cellular immunity (T-cell, or CD4 cell immunity), and therefore potentially increased cross-protection between different strains.

Live attenuated vaccines (FLUENZ) are a further vaccine type to consider: these create local immunity in the upper respiratory tract using the whole live virus, and are currently recommended for children. These are special “cold-adapted” viruses that are only capable of survival at the low temperature of the nasal and upper respiratory passages: they “self-destruct” at normal body temperature, so are incapable of causing a general flu infection.


Other important differences between vaccines include:

  • Number of strains included (in the past all flu vaccines included protection against just 3 strains, but there’s now 4-strain vaccines)
  • How the vaccine is manufactured (in eggs or in cell culture)
  • How the vaccine is given (standard injection or nasal spray)

As you have probably gathered, we are passionate about flu vaccines: you can always rely on us to offer the broadest and best choice of flu vaccines available.

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