Early each year the World Health Organisation predicts which strains of flu are likely to be circulating in the winter months. They advise the flu vaccine manufacturers which strains to cover in the coming year’s flu vaccine.
This year they identified 4 strains that are most likely to circulate this winter: at HHCC we stock the flu vaccine that protects against those 4 strains.
The 4 strain flu vaccine is likely to be better matched to the circulating strain, when compared to the 3 strain injectable flu vaccine which is commonly given on the NHS by pharmacists and GP Practices.
Using 4 strain vaccines is expected to improve the matching of the vaccine in the future. The four strain vaccine is preferable to the three strain vaccine. (2015, Joint Committee on Vaccines and Immunisation – gov.uk)
Frequently Asked Questions
Q I have asthma and am entitled to have a free NHS flu vaccine. Why pay to have the four strain vaccine privately when I can get the 3 strain vaccine on the NHS from a pharmacist or GP surgery?
A The 4 strain flu vaccine is likely to be better matched against the circulating strains than the 3 strain vaccine. Many of our patients prefer to pay to have a vaccine that is likely to be more effective by protecting against more strains of flu.
Q My GP surgery and pharmacy only offer the 3 strain injectable flu vaccine on the NHS. As the four strain flu vaccine is more effective why am I not able to get it on the NHS?
A The 4 strain flu vaccine is more expensive compared to the 3 strain flu vaccine. When deciding which flu vaccine to use the NHS has to look at cost-effectiveness.
Q I have heard the strains of flu described as A & B strains. Which strains do the 3 and four strain vaccines cover?
A 4 strain flu vaccine covers: 2 A strains & 2 B strains
3 strain flu vaccine covers: 2 A strains & 1 B strain
In the UK influenza B causes approximately 45% of influenza related GP visits, and 12% of hospitalisations and deaths (Pitman et al, 2007).
Q My four year old has been given a nasal flu vaccine. How many strains does that have?
A The NHS are using a 4 strain nasal flu vaccine for children over 2 years in certain age groups and those children in at risk groups. The nasal vaccine is not licenced for use in adults. Your child is therefore protected against all 4 strains.
Q From what age can the 4 strain injectable vaccine be given?
A From 2 years of age to adults
Q Is the 4 strain injectable vaccine safe, does it have more side effects than the 3 strain vaccine?
A The 4 strain flu vaccine (Fluarix Tetra) has a good safety profile and is licenced for use in the UK. There is no increase in side effects compared to the 3 strain vaccine.
Public Health England 2015, Immumisation against infectious disease (the Green Book) Chapter 19 Influenza
Pitman RJ, Melegaro A, Gelb D, Siddiqui MR, Gay NJ, Edmunds WJ. Assessing the burden of influenza and other respiratory infections in England and Wales. J Infect 2007;54(6):530-8
2016 Sumary of Product Characteristics, Fluarix Tetra Fluarix Tetra – Summary of Product Characteristics (SPC) – (eMC)