Each year the flu vaccination is available to help protect adults and children at risk from flu and its complications.
Flu can be unpleasant, but if you're otherwise healthy, it'll usually clear up on its own in about a week.
Anyone in these risk groups is more likely to develop potentially serious complications of flu, such as pneumonia (a lung infection), and so are eligible for a free flu jab.
Each year the vaccination is free for people most 'at risk' of having severe flu:
- anyone aged 65 and over
- pregnant women
- children and adults aged 6 months to 65 years with an underlying health condition (such as long-term heart or respiratory disease, weakened immune system or have a learning disability)
- children aged 2 and 3 on 31 August 2020
- children in primary school
- people living in long stay residential care homes
- frontline health or social care workers
And this year it has also been expanded to include the following:
- people living with someone who's at high risk from coronavirus (on the NHS shielded patient list)
- children in year 7 (secondary school)
- People aged 50 to 64 without a long-term condition (from November onwards if sufficient vaccine stock is available)
You can book your vaccination either with your GP practice or a pharmacy. Your practice may write to you inviting you in for a flu jab, or you can visit their website for more information.
Below are some key questions and answers to support any enquiries you may have. A fuller FAQ document is also available here.
What is flu?
Flu is an unpleasant disease that spreads quickly and easily through coughing and sneezing. Flu can also give you headaches, a sore throat, fever, chills, and muscle and joint aches. Those people who are at risk, either because of their age or medical conditions, may develop complications such as chest infections and pneumonia.
Why get the vaccine?
The vaccine provides the best available protection against flu. It is not 100% but it will protect a significant number of people and reduce the severity of flu if you get it. It could also help your relatives or carers because you will not be passing the disease to them.
I've heard that the vaccination can give you flu. Is that true?
No; the flu vaccine that is given to adults is made from dead flu virus and cannot cause the infection. The flu vaccine that will be given to most children is a live vaccine, but the viruses in it have been weakened so they can not cause flu. You may get some side effects after the vaccination but these are quite mild like a slightly raised temperature or aching muscles for a couple of days or an ache in the arm where the injection was given. Other reactions are very rare.
When can I get the vaccine?
You can get the vaccination either at your GP practice or local pharmacy.
Will the flu vaccine protect me against COVID-19?
Getting a flu vaccine will not protect against COVID-19. However, the flu vaccination has many other important benefits. Flu vaccines have been shown to reduce the risk of flu illness, hospitalisation and death.
I think I have coronavirus symptoms – should I still come in for a vaccination?
The symptoms of coronavirus are:
- A new continuous cough
- A high temperature
- A loss of taste and/or smell
If you have any of these symptoms, then do not attend your flu vaccination appointment. This can be rescheduled.
If you have these symptoms you need to self-isolate and book in for a coronavirus test. You can do this by calling 119 or visiting NHS.uk. You can also order a home-testing kit.