For the majority of people the flu is an unpleasant inconvenience. For those most vulnerable in our society, it can be far more serious.
Every winter, the NHS flu vaccination programme offers vital protection to those least able to fight the infection. Despite this, about 11,000 people die from seasonal flu each year and many more are hospitalised.
This winter in particular, more people are likely to catch flu because fewer people built up natural immunity to it during the previous waves of Covid. If you catch flu and Covid together, you are likely to be severely ill but getting vaccinated against Covid and flu protects you and your loved ones against both viruses. Young children, pregnant women, older people and those with underlying health conditions are most vulnerable.
Most adults can have the flu vaccine, but you should avoid it if you have had a serious allergic reaction to a flu vaccine in the past or are allergic to eggs. Ask your pharmacist or GP for a low-egg or egg-free vaccine if necessary.
Please wait until you are better before having the flu vaccine if you are ill with a high temperature.
Who's entitled to a free vaccine this year?
Children aged 2 to 11 are entitled to a free vaccine.
Adults are entitled to a free vaccine if they:
- are aged 50 and over (including those who will be 50 by 31 March 2022)
- have certain health conditions
- are pregnant
- are in long-stay residential care
- receive a carer's allowance, or are the main carer for an older or disabled person who may be at risk if they get sick
- live with someone who is more likely to get infections (such as someone who has HIV, has had a transplant or is having certain treatments for cancer, lupus or rheumatoid arthritis)
- are frontline health or social care workers
How do I get my vaccination?
If you belong to one of the groups mentioned above, you should book an appointment with a local pharmacist to get your free vaccination. Your doctor may have already been in touch. Don’t delay – make your appointment straight away to get the best possible protection. If you are pregnant, you may be able to get your vaccine from an antenatal clinic.
If you are not in an eligible group, you can still have a vaccine, but there will be a small charge. Some employers are arranging for their employees to have a vaccine.
How will my child’s vaccine be given?
Many children are offered a nasal spray vaccine. This option won’t be right for all families because it contains pork gelatine and traces of egg.
Your child can have a vaccine free from animal products. This is known as the attenuated vaccine and is delivered in the form of an injection.
If your child is two or three-years-old, they should be vaccinated by a GP or pharmacist.
Is it safe?
Yes, vaccines are very safe. The flu vaccine can lead to some mild side effects, such as a blocked nose, a headache or tiredness. These will pass quickly and for many people will not appear at all.
Vaccine is developed from the virus it treats. The virus is present but in a very weakened form. You cannot get flu from the flu vaccine.
Is it effective?
Vaccination is the best defence against the flu. Viruses evolve very quickly, and flu comes in many different strains. The vaccine will be most effective if it closely matches the flu most commonly in circulation during the winter.
I had a flu vaccination last year – do I need it again this year?
The strain of flu most commonly in circulation changes each year, so your vaccine from last year won’t offer you protection against this year’s flu.
Will the vaccine protect me against Covid?
No, the flu vaccine is only designed to protect against flu.
There is an increased risk, especially for vulnerable people, with Covid- and seasonal flu circulating at the same time – that’s why the flu vaccine is so important this year.
Download flu vaccination leaflets and posters - from the NHS about vaccinating your child this winter. These are available in English and English large print as well as other languages such as Arabic, Farsi, Gujarati, Romanian, Polish, Somali, Urdu and Tamil. A Braille version and British Sign Language video are also available.
Download ‘The flu vaccination: who should have it and why’ from the NHS - about who should have the flu vaccination and why. It is available in English and English large print as well as other languages such as Arabic, Farsi, Gujarati, Romanian, Polish, Somali, Urdu and Tamil. A Braille version and a British Sign Language video are also available.