Influenza – to vaccinate or not?

Flu, also known as influenza, is a viral infection. It often feels similar to a cold, but its symptoms can be much more severe. So is it worth getting the flu vaccination? We provide the information so you can make up your mind.

30.11.2022 Tanja Kühnle 2 minutes

The word flu is commonly used as a catch-all for types of colds or flu-like diseases. “Real” flu, however, is caused by the influenza virus. It often feels similar to a cold, but its symptoms, such as headaches and aching limbs, can be much more severe. It is often accompanied by a high temperature of 38°C to 40°C, or even higher.

Is it worth getting the flu vaccination?

It is possible to get vaccinated against the flu. Each year, the types of circulating influenza viruses vary; some are more virulent, others less so, so the protective effect of the flu vaccine also varies from year to year, but it doesn’t protect against colds. That’s why opinions on the flu vaccine vary strongly. 

Based on scientific studies, the Harding Center for Risk Literacy at the University of Potsdam has summarised the potential benefits and adverse effects of the flu vaccination for healthy adults and older persons:

Healthy adolescents and adults

Of every 100 healthy adolescents and adults who did not receive a flu vaccination, between 2 and 10 people became infected with the influenza virus within one flu season. Between 1 and 4 of every 100 people vaccinated became infected during this period. As with any vaccination, redness, soreness and swelling may be experienced at the site of injection. For every 100 people vaccinated, 1 suffered from a temporary fever and 6 from muscle pain as a result of the vaccination.

Older persons

On average, 10 out of every 100 people over the age of 65 who did not receive a flu vaccination suffered from flu-like symptoms over the course of one season. For vaccinated people, this figure was 6 out of 100. Older people who have a pre-existing heart condition can be protected from hospitalisation by the flu vaccination, as an influenza infection can exacerbate pneumonia or even worsen pre-existing heart disease. About 10 out of every 100 vaccinated older adults complain of temporary arm pain.

Who covers the costs for the flu vaccination?

Our basic insurance covers the costs of the flu vaccination (minus excess and deductible) for people at increased risk of complications from the flu. This group includes:

  • People over the age of 65
  • Pregnant women
  • Women who have given birth in the last four weeks
  • Premature babies from the age of six months and over, for the first two winters after birth
  • People with chronic illnesses such as bronchial asthma, diabetes or cancer
  • People in nursing homes
More information on basic insurance

In other cases, Helsana pays a contribution for the flu vaccination from the SANA and COMPLETA supplementary insurance. SANA reimburses 75% of the costs for preventive measures, up to a maximum of CHF 500 per calendar year; COMPLETA covers 90% of such costs, up to a maximum of CHF 750. 


Your supplement: Outpatient benefits and alternative treatments are covered.


All the benefits of TOP and SANA – in some cases with higher reimbursements.

In light of these facts, each of us must ultimately decide whether or not the flu vaccine is a sensible option. We hope you now have a clearer overview of this complex issue.

Do you have any other questions?

Do you have any questions about about a diagnosis you have received? Or would you like to know about other health-related issues? Our health advisors provide you with helpful information and specific recommendations.

Health consultation service 058 340 15 69

Monday to Friday, 8.00 a.m. to 8.00 p.m. (local rate). 

Helsana health consultation is a free service for everyone with Helsana supplementary insurance. By calling health consultation, you confirm that you accept the terms of use and the privacy policy.

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