Flu vaccination, sometimes known as the flu jab, is available every year on the NHS to help protect adults and children at risk of flu and the complications it brings.
Who can get the flu vaccine?
Anyone can get the flu vaccine, although more vulnerable people can get the flu vaccine for free.
People who get the flu vaccine for free include:
- all pregnant women
- anyone over 65
- anyone who lives in a long-stay residential care home or other long-stay care facility, i.e. nursing home
- anyone over six months old with a long-term health problem such as diabetes, a chest problem or breathing difficulties (including asthma, bronchitis or emphysema) a heart problem, kidney or liver disease or a neurological condition (such as Parkinson's or motor neurone disease)
- carers of elderly or disabled persons
- health and social care staff
- children under the aged 2 and 3, from their GP
- school children from Reception to year 5, via a Fluenz Nasal Spray.
If you live with someone who has a lowered immune system, you may also be eligible for a free vaccination. This is because flu symptoms take around two days to develop and, just like carers, you may have the virus and pass it on to those who are more vulnerable than you without even realising you have done so. See your GP for more information
Where can you get the flu vaccine?
You can get the flu vaccine by contacting your GP. The flu vaccine is also available at some local and multi-national pharmacies.
School-aged children will be offered the Fluenz nasal spray via their school.
How the flu vaccine works?
Each year, the viruses that are most likely to cause flu are identified in advance and vaccines are made to match them as closely as possible.
Whilst the vaccine cannot provide a 100% guarantee that you will be flu-free, studies have shown that it helps prevent you getting the flu.
In the 2018/19 flu season, a new 'booster' vaccine is being made available for all those aged 65 and over which should provide better protection than the 2017/18 vaccines. We are also recommending that the quadrivalent vaccine similar to the vaccine used in 2017/18, which protects against 4 strains of flu rather than 3 and is currently used for all children under 18 years of age, is made available to all adults in at-risk groups aged between 16 to 64 years.
Flu vaccine myths
The side effects are worse than having the flu
Most people suffer nothing worse than a slightly sore arm. Some people may experience a mild fever for up to 48 hours after having the injection version of the vaccine as their immune system responds to the vaccine, but this is not the flu.
It causes me to have the flu
The flu vaccine given to adults contains inactivated flu viruses, so it can't give you flu. Your arm may feel a bit sore where you were injected, and some people get a slight temperature and aching muscles for a couple of days afterwards. Other reactions are very rare.
The vaccine doesn't work
It is true that the flu vaccine will not protect you 100% from getting flu, but it is the best protection we have against an unpredictable virus. The majority of people will be fully protected and some will get milder and short-lived symptoms. The vaccine provides a defence for those more susceptible to flu, and helps to prevent further complications such as pneumonia.
You only need to have the flu vaccine once
The flu virus changes every year, which means that slightly different virus strains circulate from previous years. You will have lower immunity to new strains of the flu. However, the flu vaccine is constantly changing to protect against these new strains, so having the vaccine once a year can provide you with better protection.