Every flu season, patients ask many different questions on vaccination side effects, and not all practitioners can give a jargon-free answer.
So below are the top five questions that patients will likely ask your practice this flu season – with an answer that is simple for patients to understand.
Q1. How often should I get vaccinated?
Patients should get a flu vaccination every year, because your last flu vaccine only covers you for a year, and each year the vaccination targeting the most common strains is different.
Q2. Is it safe to get a flu shot? What about infants and pregnant or breastfeeding women?
This question is asked because the patients fear side effects like potential allergic reactions or may have heard rumours about flu shots causing the flu or may be concerned that the vaccine may harm the baby, if pregnant.
Always tell patients about potential side-effects, including minor ones like redness, swelling, mild fever and tiredness, which should subside within 48 hours. Of course, if they are concerned that they could ‘catch the flu’ from having the vaccine you can reassure them that this is a myth. It’s also worth reminding patients that flu vaccinations are safe and in fact recommended for infants, children and during any stage of pregnancy.
Q3. What should I do in case of side effects?
Side effects are usually mild, temporary and disappear without any treatment.
However, it is important to remind patients that if if an infant or child develops a ‘persistent fever’ over 38.5° C or another persistent symptom following a flu shot, they should seek immediate medical assistance.
Q4. When is the best time to get vaccinated?
Most patients think flu season does not start until winter and might delay getting vaccinated – but practices should let patients know that the season starts from mid-March, so ‘the sooner the better’ is the way to go!
Some clinics send campaigns to patients (via letter, SMS or email) about the flu season to remind them when it is time to get vaccinated. You should also make sure you have posters up in your waiting room about the flu vaccine being available.
Q5. Does the flu shot work right away?
It can take up-to 2 weeks for antibodies to develop after a flu-shot. So you should tell patients that it can take up to 15 days for them to be effectively protected – another reason to emphasise getting vaccinated early in the flu season.