The flu vaccine is a safe and effective vaccine. It's offered every year on the NHS to help protect people at risk of flu and its complications.
The flu virus is unpleasant for most people, but it can be very dangerous for people who are already living with some health conditions. That’s why the NHS offers a free flu vaccination to those most at risk of developing potentially serious complications.
Flu vaccine and coronavirus (COVID-19)
In 2020, the flu vaccination is especially important because:
- if you’re at higher risk from coronavirus, you’re also more at risk of problems from flu
- if you get flu and coronavirus at the same time, research shows you’re more likely to be seriously ill
- it’ll help to reduce pressure on the NHS and social care staff who may be dealing with coronavirus
If you’ve had COVID-19, it’s safe to have the flu vaccine. It’ll be effective at helping to prevent flu.
Who is eligible for a free flu jab?
GP practices and community pharmacies are offering the free NHS flu virus vaccinations to all patients in the following categories
- those 65 years old or over
- those who are pregnant
- those with certain medical conditions
- those living in a long-stay residential care home or another long-stay care facility
- people receiving a carer’s allowance, or who are the main carer for an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if you fall ill
- people living with someone who’s at high risk of coronavirus (on the NHS shielded patient list) or you expect to be with them on most days over the flu season
- later in the year, the flu vaccine may be given to 50-64-year-olds. More information will be available on the NHS website.
Vaccines for children
The nasal spray flu vaccine is free on the NHS for:
- children aged 2 or 3 years on 31 August 2020 – born between 1 September 2016 and 31 August 2018
- all primary school children (reception to year 6)
- all year 7 in secondary school
- children aged 2 to 17 years with long-term health conditions
If your child is aged between 6 months and 2 years and is in a high-risk group for flu, they’ll be offered a flu vaccine injection instead of the nasal spray. This is because the nasal spray is not licensed for children under 2 years.
Children aged 2 to 17 years may also have the flu vaccine injection if the nasal spray vaccine is not suitable for them.
More information about children’s flu vaccines can be found at www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/flu-influenza-vaccine/
What if I’m not on the list?
If you’re over 18 and not eligible for a free flu jab through the NHS, you’re able to get one from a local community pharmacy if you’d like one. This will cost around £10-15.
Contact your local pharmacy to arrange your flu jab. You can find your nearest pharmacy at www.nhs.uk/service-search/find-a-Pharmacy
What do I need to do?
If you’re able to have a flu jab free through the NHS, your GP practice will contact you and ask you to make an appointment. You don’t need to contact them until they get in touch with you.
- Don’t go to your GP surgery in person to ask for an appointment. Practices are only letting people into their buildings if they have been told to go by their GP.
- Many GP practices are holding special flu clinics clinics, which are only open to people who have pre-booked an appointment.
- You can contact your local pharmacy to ask them about getting the flu jab.
- Anyone getting a flu jab should be appropriately dressed in short sleeves, so the person administering the vaccine has easy access to your upper arm/s.
- Please arrive on-time, and not too early for your appointment.
Frequently asked questions
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.
Does the vaccination give you flu?
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.
This film explains who is eligible for a free flu vaccination and why it’s important to have one. Thanks to our colleagues at Frimley Health and Care for sharing their helpful film
Becky talks about how the flu can make you feel, and how important it is to get a flu vaccine if you have a learning disability.
For more information about the flu vaccine, please visit www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/flu-influenza-vaccine/