September 13, 2020

It’s going to be a long winter – get your flu vaccination early.

Everyone with Addison's disease so is steroid-dependent, should get their free NHS flu jab to reduce the risk of getting the flu. You can’t get the flu from the flu jab, but it takes two weeks to work so you could still get the flu during that time. That’s why it’s important to get the jab as soon as you can. A vaccine protects you against the most common types of flu currently around. As this changes each year, it means you need a new jab each year too.

Dr Anna Mitchell, Consultant Endocrinologist, explains more about the importance of getting your flu jab when you are steroid-dependent and the impact of COVID-19.

For people who are steroid-dependent, catching flu can have serious consequences. An ADSHG member survey in 2013 showed that around a quarter of adrenal crises requiring hospital admission stemmed from flu and flu-like illnesses. For this reason, people who are steroid-dependent are offered an annual flu vaccination free of charge on the NHS.

Each year, we encourage all steroid-dependent patients to take advantage of the NHS flu vaccination programme, but in the era of COVID-19, we feel that this is even more important.

What does COVID-19 mean for the flu jab and those with Addison's or adrenal insufficiency? 

COVID-19 is a multisystem disease caused by a novel Coronavirus which has swept the globe. Nearly every country in the world has reported cases in the COVID-19 pandemic. The typical symptoms of COVID-19 infection are fever, cough and shortness of breath, in addition to other classical viral symptoms like fatigue, muscles aches and pains and headache. There is significant overlap between COVID-19 symptoms and the symptoms of flu. Currently, there is not an effective vaccine for COVID-19, and therefore we are reliant on trying to contain the spread of the virus with good hand hygiene, face coverings and physical distancing. These are also effective strategies for minimising transmission of flu.

The first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic struck the UK early in springtime. We then saw a fall in transmission rates over the summer, and now cases seem to be rising again. As autumn and winter approach, we will also start to see the usual rise in the “regular” winter viral illnesses, including the common cold and flu. Therefore, unfortunately, it now looks like a second wave of COVID-19 will now coincide with winter virus season which will undoubtedly put extra pressure on a healthcare system that has been struggling in recent times, even before COVID-19 existed, to cope with “winter pressures”. It looks like we are facing a long winter…

Why you should get the flu jab when you're steroid-dependent

We predict that people who are steroid-dependent are at increased risk of needing hospital care if they get COVID-19 or the flu, due to the risk of adrenal crisis requiring medical care. If you can protect yourself from one of these illnesses, surely that is worthwhile. Admittedly, having a flu jab does not 100% guarantee that you will not get flu. However, it should reduce the chances. Who doesn’t want one less thing to worry about this winter? So, don’t delay - make your appointment soon!

Dr Anna Mitchell, Consultant Endocrinologist, Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Where and when to book you flu jab: You should book your annual flu vaccination for early autumn if possible (September onwards). Contact your GP to book your jab if they haven't already got in touch. Or if it’s quicker and easier, get one from your local pharmacy. Click on the following links to book your flu jab at Asda, Lloyds PharmacyTesco or Boots.

For more information, our ADSHG Clinical Advisory Panel have put together guidance about the flu vaccination in our 'Managing Your Addison's' leaflet. You can download the 'Managing Your Addison's' leaflet for free here.

We’re here for you with information and support around coronavirus – please click here to read our latest coronavirus guidance.