Information and guidance for the flu vaccination
A flu vaccination protects up to 90% of those who are vaccinated. This is because it prevents the outbreak of flu or lessens its impact. Another benefit is that the more people who are vaccinated, the greater the resistance to the transmission of the flu.
The Standing Committee on Vaccination (STIKO) recommends vaccination for the following people:
- Individuals 60 years of age and older
- Individuals with a chronic illness
- Pregnant women
- Employees who face a higher risk of infection because of their job, such as individuals who work on public transport or in healthcare facilities
The reason for this recommendation is that age, chronic illness and pregnancy lead to weakened immune systems – and in this instance, the flu can be life-threatening.
Individuals with acute illnesses involving fever or individuals with a proven severe egg allergy should not be vaccinated.
It takes about two weeks for the flu vaccination to take full effect. After this point, individuals who are vaccinated are generally protected for the entire flu season. Since flu viruses mutate quickly, a new vaccination is needed every year. The vaccination protects against the flu viruses that are most likely to occur most frequently in the coming season.
The flu season starts in autumn and generally continues through the winter, the peak months being January and February. It can take up to three weeks for the vaccination to take full effect. For this reason, it’s a good idea to get vaccinated in time, so in October or November.
Vaccination is the most effective method of preventing a flu infection. A true flu infection weakens the immune system. This makes it easier for other pathogens to take hold. Often the result is pneumonia, which can be life-threatening. Individuals with other illnesses and older people are especially prone to flu complications. By getting vaccinated you also protect others around you who cannot be vaccinated.
The vaccination is generally well tolerated. Severe reactions have not been observed in studies. Nevertheless you may experience local symptoms of intolerance, such as redness, swelling and pain. Other symptoms that may occur but are rare include a slight fever, fatigue, headache and nausea. These symptoms usually subside within one to two days. If they do not subside, please visit your GP. Allergic reactions were found to occur in less than one in 10,000 vaccination cases. They are extremely rare.
The flu vaccination has been confirmed to be safe during pregnancy. The vaccine approved in Germany is an inactivated vaccine and therefore not a cause for concern for pregnant women. During the first trimester of pregnancy the vaccination is only recommended where there is an increased health risk. Please consult your doctor.
The vaccination also protects the unborn baby. A flu infection during pregnancy can have serious consequences – such as growth restrictions, stillbirth and premature birth. Infants themselves can only be vaccinated for the flu from the age of six months. Newborns in the first months of life can experience complications if they catch the flu, because their immune systems are still weak.
Trivalent vaccines protect against three strains of flu, quadrivalent vaccines protect against four strains of flu. The vaccines provide protection depending on which flu viruses occur in the season in question. This changes from season to season. The Standing Committee on Vaccination (STIKO) has recommended the quadrivalent vaccine since flu season 2018/19. The reason for this recommendation is that in the 2017/18 season the flu strain that was most common was not included in the trivalent vaccine. The Federal Joint Committee (G-BA) has added the quadrivalent vaccine to the protective vaccinations guideline. The quadrivalent vaccine is therefore covered by SBK as a statutory service since 2018.
Flu vaccination – your SBK benefits:
- We cover the full costs of quadrivalent vaccination for all insured persons as an extra service. As a rule, the flu vaccination is only intended for individuals who are 60 years of age or older.
- The SBK Health Telephone is available 24/7 to answer your questions about the flu vaccination: 0800 072 572 570 00 (free of charge within Germany).
Please note: if you are not connected directly, unfortunately, all lines are busy at the time of your call. In this case you will hear an announcement in German and be directed to an answering machine. You are welcome to leave your name and telephone number after the tone and we will call you back as soon as possible.
How to get a flu vaccination:
You get a flu vaccination from your GP. Your GP should have the flu vaccine in their surgery.
Individuals 60 years of age and older, those with a chronic illness and pregnant women receive the vaccination as a service covered by their health insurance. In this case, you just have to present your SBK health care card to the surgery.
If you are younger than 60 years old and do not have an underlying illness, your doctor can issue you a private invoice. Doctors generally keep the flu vaccine on hand in their surgeries so you don’t have to make an extra trip to the pharmacy. Send the prescription and private invoice to SBK, 80227 Munich, Germany. You will then be reimbursed the costs of vaccination. A vaccination consultation, such as for your next holiday abroad, is a private service that you have to pay for yourself, however. If you have more questions about covering costs, it is best to speak with your personal consultant before getting vaccinated.