The flu season is about to start. That is why about 6 million people living in the Netherlands will receive an invitation to get the flu jab in the next few months. The invitation is sent to people who are at high risk of becoming seriously ill from the flu, because of their age (60+) or medical condition. Flu is an infectious respiratory disease caused by the flu virus (or influenza virus).

People aged 73 to 79 will be offered pneumococcal vaccination for the first time this autumn. Pneumococci are bacteria that can cause you to become ill. The pneumococcal vaccination is often given at the same time as the flu jab.

Since this year, we are also dealing with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. There is no vaccine for that yet. 

The symptoms caused by coronavirus disease (COVID-19) are similar to the symptoms of flu. Moreover, COVID-19, flu and pneumococcal disease can all lead to pneumonia. The most frequently asked questions about COVID-19, the flu and the flu jab, and pneumococcal disease and the pneumococcal vaccination in the overview below.   

Flu, pneumococcal disease and coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Are the vaccination clinics continued while the coronavirus measures are in place?
Yes. GPs will take the coronavirus measures into account. Read more on how to get the flu jab safely.

 

Can I still get the flu if I follow the coronavirus measures?
You are less likely to get the flu if you follow the coronavirus measures. Your risk of catching the flu is even lower if you get the flu jab and/or pneumococcal vaccination. You can still get the flu despite all the measures, but even then, the flu jab can protect you from developing serious complications from influenza.

 

Can I still get pneumococcal disease if I follow the coronavirus measures?
You are less likely to get pneumococcal disease if you follow the coronavirus measures. Your risk of catching pneumococcal disease is even lower if you get the pneumococcal vaccination. The vaccination does not protect against all types of pneumococci.  There are more than 90 types of pneumococci. The pneumococcal vaccination protects you against the 23 most common types of pneumococci. This means that you can no longer get infected with these types of pneumococci.

 

Can I become ill from flu and from the coronavirus (COVID-19) at the same time?
It is possible that people could get flu and COVID-19 at the same time during flu season, but it does not seem likely. These are two different infectious diseases caused by different viruses. People get infected by contact with mucus, saliva and/or snot from other people who are ill and coughing or sneezing.

The measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus also help prevent the flu from spreading. The symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar. That is why it is important to stay home and get tested if you have symptoms.

 

Will I become more seriously ill if I get the flu soon after I had COVID-19? Or if I am still recovering from COVID-19? Or vice versa?
Not all infections involving the flu virus or novel coronavirus involve a serious (or very serious) course of illness. A large percentage of people have a relatively mild case. However, there are people who have a higher risk of severe illness resulting from the flu. These people also have a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. That may be the case due to older age, or a chronic disease that affects the heart, lungs, kidneys or immune system.

If you have had severe pneumonia due to COVID-19 and then still get the flu afterwards, or the other way around, this could have a major impact on your body. A new infection involving a different virus or bacterium in lungs that are already damaged could lead to a more serious course of illness. The recovery phase could be longer or more difficult as a result.
 


Will I become more seriously ill if I get pneumococcal disease soon after I had COVID-19? Or if I am still recovering from COVID-19? Or vice versa?
Not all infections involving pneumococci or the novel coronavirus involve a serious (or very serious) course of illness. A large percentage of people do not get ill or develop a relatively mild case. However, there are people who have a higher risk of developing pneumococcal disease. That usually involves pneumonia. These people often also have a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. That may be the case due to older age, or a chronic disease that affects the heart, lungs, kidneys or immune system.

If you get pneumococcal disease after having severe pneumonia due to COVID-19, or the other way around, this will have a major impact on your body. A new infection involving a different virus or bacterium in lungs that are already damaged could lead to a more serious course of illness. The recovery phase could be longer or more difficult as a result.

 

If I have COVID-19, do I have a higher risk of getting the flu or pneumococcal disease?
There are people who have a higher risk of getting the novel coronavirus, the flu virus, or pneumococcal bacteria. This may be due to their age, a chronic illness, or decreased immunity due to illness or medication. Simultaneous (serious) infection can also occur, but the likelihood of this seems small.

Pneumococcal vaccination and coronavirus (COVID-19)

Does the pneumococcal vaccination also protect against COVID-19?
No, the pneumococcal vaccination does not involve a vaccine against COVID-19. Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is caused by a virus. Pneumococci are bacteria. The pneumococcal vaccination protects you against the 23 most common types of pneumococci.

 

Does a pneumococcal vaccination help against the respiratory symptoms caused by the coronavirus?
No. The respiratory symptoms that can affect your lungs due to COVID-19 are caused by the novel coronavirus and not by pneumococci. The pneumococcal vaccination only protects you against pneumococcal bacteria.

 

I do not want to get the pneumococcal vaccination because I am afraid I am more likely to get the coronavirus right after getting the vaccination. What should I do?
You can get the pneumococcal vaccination safely. It has never been shown that people are more susceptible to infection in the days after a vaccination. This applies to all infections involving bacteria and viruses, and therefore also to the novel coronavirus.

Having a pneumococcal vaccination does not weaken your immune system. You can ask your GP for advice if you have any questions or doubts.

 

After getting the pneumococcal vaccination, if I develop side-effects that resemble COVID-19, should I get tested for COVID-19?
The most common side-effects after the pneumococcal vaccination are pain, redness or a slight swelling in the area where you had the injection. After the pneumococcal vaccination, you may also develop an elevated temperature. That usually goes away within 1 or 2 days.  If you develop an elevated temperature or fever (above 38°C) after the pneumococcal vaccination, you are advised to stay home for 48 hours after getting the pneumococcal vaccination. Do you still have an elevated temperature after that? Or is your temperature rising? Then get tested, and stay home at least until you get the test result. COVID-19 symptoms such as a cold, cough or fever are not side-effects of the pneumococcal vaccination.

Have you developed these symptoms after getting the pneumococcal vaccination, even within 48 hours after the injection? Then we advise you to get tested for COVID-19 and in any case to stay home until you know the test result.

If you have doubts or severe symptoms, always consult your GP or the out-of-hours medical centre.

 

The flu jab and the coronavirus (COVID-19)

Does the flu jab also offer protection against the coronavirus?
No. The flu jab is not a vaccine against the coronavirus, and does not protect you from COVID-19. The flu jab gives protection against flu. The flu is caused by flu viruses (influenza). Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is caused by the novel coronavirus. The flu jab does not offer any protection from the coronavirus.

 

I do not want to get the flu jab because I am afraid I am more likely to get the coronavirus right after getting the flu jab. What should I do?
You can get the flu jab safely. It has never been shown that people are more susceptible to infection in the days after the flu jab. This applies to all infections involving bacteria and viruses, and therefore also to the novel coronavirus.

Having a flu jab does not weaken your immune system. You can ask your GP for advice if you have any questions or doubts.

 

Is it more important than usual for me to get a flu jab this year because of the coronavirus?
If you are in the target group for the flu jab, you are at higher risk of becoming seriously ill from the flu. Like every year, the flu jab is the best protection against the serious complications from the flu. After the flu jab, you will have a lower risk of getting flu. And if you do get the flu, you will usually not become seriously ill. It is up to you to decide if you have a flu jab.

Many people in the target group for the flu jab could also become more seriously ill from the coronavirus (COVID-19). If you become seriously ill from the flu and then get COVID-19, this could have a major impact on your body.
The flu jab helps you stay as healthy as possible. In addition, getting the flu jab can also help reduce the pressure on the healthcare system. Flu can also cause people to be hospitalised. At the same time, there could also be many hospital admissions due to COVID-19. If that happens, it would be preferable to minimise the number of people who are hospitalised with flu.

Finally, the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are very similar. If you get a flu jab, you are less likely to need to get tested (unnecessarily). This can help to make the test sites less busy.

 

Is there a connection between getting the flu jab and dying of COVID-19?
No. The flu jab does not affect the chances of someone getting COVID-19 and dying from it. People over 60 years old and/or with certain diseases will receive an invitation for the flu jab. To a large extent, these are also the people who have a higher risk of becoming more seriously ill or even dying due to COVID-19 (see question 2).

 

After getting the flu jab, if I develop side-effects that resemble flu-like symptoms, should I get tested for COVID-19?
The most common side-effects after the flu jab are pain, redness or a slight swelling in the area where you had the injection. After the flu jab, you may also have a headache or feel lethargic.  These side-effects almost always disappear within 2 days. COVID symptoms such as a cold, cough or fever are not side-effects of the flu jab.

Have you developed symptoms of a cold, cough or fever after getting the flu jab? Then we advise you to get tested for COVID-19 and in any case to stay home until you know the test result.

If you have doubts or severe symptoms, always consult your GP or the out-of-hours medical centre.

 

Can the coronavirus be included in the flu jab?
No, that is not possible. You cannot just add a different virus to a vaccine. That is related to how the vaccine works and to the safety of the vaccines. This still needs to be researched thoroughly for the COVID-19 vaccine. Only then can this be explored for the combination of a possible COVID-19 vaccine and the flu vaccine.

There is no vaccine against COVID-19 available at this time. Researchers all over the world are currently working hard to develop a new vaccine against COVID-19.

Get the flu jab safely

How will my GP ensure that I can get the flu jab safely?
Your GP and doctor’s assistants will ensure that everyone can maintain physical distance during the flu vaccination clinic. They will also ensure that people who have symptoms that could indicate COVID-19 do not come to the GP practice. As a result, it is possible this year that you will be vaccinated at a different location, such as a sport hall. Only the care provider who gives you the shot will approach within 1.5 metres.
The method used to give the vaccine is different than in previous years: You will stand with your back to the care provider to minimise the risk of infection. In addition, the care provider who gives you the shot will be wearing a medical face mask that covers the nose and mouth. You are advised to wear a face mask as well. Your GP may also arrange additional measures.

 

What can I do myself to get the flu jab safely?
You can follow the measures:

  • Stay home and make a new appointment if you have one or more of these symptoms:
    • Cold symptoms such as a nasal cold, runny nose, sneezing, sore throat
    • Coughing
    • Shortness of breath
    • Elevated temperature or fever
    • Sudden loss of smell and/or taste (without nasal congestion)
  • Stay 1.5 metres from others (except from the care provider who gives you the shot).
  • Make sure that you have a face mask.
  • Do not look at the care provider while they are giving you the shot.
  • You will get the flu jab in your upper arm, so wear clothes that make it easy to uncover your upper arm. That will keep contact short.

Together, we will keep vaccination safe.


 
Are there enough flu vaccines available if more people want to get the flu jab this year?
In previous years, about half of the target group got the flu jab. This year, we are anticipating that more people from the target group will want to get the flu jab. For that reason, extra vaccines have been ordered to meet the higher demand.

 

Why are you anticipating that more people will get a flu jab if the flu jab does not help against COVID-19?
Flu and COVID-19 cause many similar symptoms. There is a vaccine for the flu virus (influenza): the flu jab. It is possible that people will want to protect themselves from flu by getting the flu jab. That makes it less likely that they will develop symptoms that require them to get tested for COVID-19.

In addition, since the coronavirus pandemic, people are likely to be more aware of the dangers that viruses pose to their personal health. They want to protect themselves as well as they can, and possibly also to prevent the healthcare system from being overloaded.

Pneumococcal vaccination and coronavirus (COVID-19)

Does the pneumococcal vaccination also protect against COVID-19?
No, the pneumococcal vaccination does not involve a vaccine against COVID-19. Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is caused by a virus. Pneumococci are bacteria. The pneumococcal vaccination protects you against the 23 most common types of pneumococci.

 

Does a pneumococcal vaccination help against the respiratory symptoms caused by the coronavirus?
No. The respiratory symptoms that can affect your lungs due to COVID-19 are caused by the novel coronavirus and not by pneumococci. The pneumococcal vaccination only protects you against pneumococcal bacteria.

 

I do not want to get the pneumococcal vaccination because I am afraid I am more likely to get the coronavirus right after getting the vaccination. What should I do?
You can get the pneumococcal vaccination safely. It has never been shown that people are more susceptible to infection in the days after a vaccination. This applies to all infections involving bacteria and viruses, and therefore also to the novel coronavirus.

Having a pneumococcal vaccination does not weaken your immune system. You can ask your GP for advice if you have any questions or doubts.

 

After getting the pneumococcal vaccination, if I develop side-effects that resemble COVID-19, should I get tested for COVID-19?
The most common side-effects after the pneumococcal vaccination are pain, redness or a slight swelling in the area where you had the injection. After the pneumococcal vaccination, you may also develop an elevated temperature. That usually goes away within 1 or 2 days.  If you develop an elevated temperature or fever (above 38°C) after the pneumococcal vaccination, you are advised to stay home for 48 hours after getting the pneumococcal vaccination. Do you still have an elevated temperature after that? Or is your temperature rising? Then get tested, and stay home at least until you get the test result. COVID-19 symptoms such as a cold, cough or fever are not side-effects of the pneumococcal vaccination.

Have you developed these symptoms after getting the pneumococcal vaccination, even within 48 hours after the injection? Then we advise you to get tested for COVID-19 and in any case to stay home until you know the test result.
If you have doubts or severe symptoms, always consult your GP or the out-of-hours medical centre.

Getting the flu jab or pneumococcal vaccination if you currently have COVID-19, or had it before

I have a coronavirus infection (COVID-19) now. Can I get the flu jab, or would it be better to postpone the vaccination?
It would be better to get the flu jab later. If you have COVID-19, you must stay in home isolation and are not allowed to go to the GP to get the flu jab. That is only allowed after you have been symptom-free for 24 hours AND it is at least 7 days after the onset of the symptoms. The Municipal Public Health Service (GGD) will give you information about when you are allowed to leave home isolation. After that, consult your GP about a good time to get the flu jab later.

 

I have a coronavirus infection (COVID-19) now. Can I get the pneumococcal vaccination, or would it be better to postpone the vaccination?
It would be better to get the pneumococcal vaccination later. If you have COVID-19, you must stay in home isolation and are not allowed to go to the GP to get the pneumococcal vaccination. That is only allowed after you have been symptom-free for 24 hours AND it is at least 7 days after the onset of the symptoms. The Municipal Public Health Service (GGD) will give you information about when you are allowed to leave home isolation. After that, consult your GP about a good time to get the pneumococcal vaccination later.

 

I still have some symptoms after having had COVID-19. Can I get the flu jab, or would it be better to postpone the vaccination?
The Municipal Public Health Service (GGD) will give you information about when you are allowed to leave home isolation. In principle, it is always safe to get the flu jab after that. It does not matter that you are still recovering from COVID-19. See the invitation letter for more information on when you cannot get a flu jab or need to consult with your GP.

 

I still have some symptoms after having had COVID-19. Can I get the pneumococcal vaccination, or would it be better to postpone the vaccination?
The Municipal Public Health Service (GGD) will give you information about when you are allowed to leave home isolation. In principle, it is always safe to get the pneumococcal vaccination after that. It does not matter that you are still recovering from COVID-19.

 

I have had COVID-19. Does the flu jab still work?
We can assume that the flu jab protects you against the flu after you have had COVID-19. Also, it is safe to get the flu jab: no unexpected side-effects will occur.

 

I have had COVID-19. Does the pneumococcal vaccination still work?
We can assume that the pneumococcal vaccination protects you against pneumococci after you have had COVID-19. Also, it is safe to get the pneumococcal vaccination: no unexpected side-effects will occur.

Is the flu jab also important for people who have already had COVID-19?
Yes, the flu jab is important for everyone who is invited to get the flu jab. That also applies if you have had COVID-19.

 

Is the pneumococcal vaccination also important for people who have already had COVID-19?
Yes, the pneumococcal vaccination is important for everyone who is invited to get the pneumococcal vaccination. That also applies if you have had COVID-19.