Flu vaccine: An investment in your health or an unnecessary risk?

Flu season is coming. Each year employees face the decision to take the vaccination shot or not. Uptake and impact vary across countries and business sectors. We review messages from health institutions worldwide addressing common perceptions about vaccine benefits and risks.

Common perceptions leading us to question the benefits of the vaccine and official response from health institutions:

Flu is like a cold and we do not need vaccine against it

  • Flu accounts for 3-5 million cases of severe illness and between 250,000 to 500,000 deaths annually in the world (WHO)
  • Each year infects approximately 10-30% of Europe's population and causes hundreds of thousands of hospitalisations (ECDC)
  • An average 8,000 people die from flu in England each year. Some years that figure reaches 14,000. (Public Health England)
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Pregnant women should not take the vaccine

  • Pregnant women can take the shot at any stage of their pregnancy and are in fact considered the highest priority group by the WHO

Healthy adult people do not get the flu

  • It is true that the vaccine is recommended to population groups who are at greater risk of developing complications (e.g. pregnant women; people with chronic asthma, diabetes, chronic heart disease; the over 65’s; frontline health or social care workers).
  • However even healthy people of any age could get the flu and spread it to others (including those who are at risk of serious illness).
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I’ve had the flu jab last time, so I don’t need it again for a few years

  • People need to be vaccinated annually as the viruses that cause flu can change every year.

Vaccine is not effective, even if you get it you can still get sick

  • Flu viruses can mutate each year and it is not possible to exactly predict which ones will be more common in time for the vaccine to be ready
  • However protection levels are on average quite high 50% for healthy adult people and some cross-protection is still offered to related viruses
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A more detailed analysis on vaccine pros and cons, trends so far and anticipation of the new season will soon be published in our upcoming GEB News.


CDC Information for Business and Employers (US)

NHS Choices website (UK)

WHO Global Influenza Programme (GIP)

ECDC on seasonal influenza (EU)