Flu vaccine

The flu vaccine is available for younger children, older people, those in clinical risk groups and pregnant women. 

Please help to keep yourself and those around you safe against these viruses by getting vaccinated when you are invited. You can find out more about what vaccinations you may need, and information about how to book an appointment, by visiting www.nhs.uk/flujab

Flu is caused by influenza viruses that infect the windpipe and lungs. Flu will often get better on its own, but it can make some people seriously ill. It’s important to get the flu vaccine if you’re advised to.

Please note that the flu and COVID-19 vaccine can be given on the same day. However, this may not always be possible, so we encourage everybody to get each vaccination as soon as they can, rather than waiting to get both at the same time

Flu is spread by coughs and sneezes. You can prevent the spread by covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, and you should wash your hands frequently or use hand gels to reduce the risk of picking up the virus. The best way to avoid catching and spreading flu is by having the vaccination before the flu season starts.

What should I do if I think I have flu?
The best way to avoid catching and spreading flu is by having the vaccination before the flu season starts. If you think that you have flu you should:
  • rest and sleep
  • keep warm
  • take paracetamol or ibuprofen to lower your temperature and treat aches and pains
  • drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration (your pee should be light yellow or clear)
A pharmacist can give treatment advice and recommend flu remedies.
Why should I get the flu vaccine?
It’s important to get the free NHS flu vaccine if you’re eligible. The flu vaccine is a safe and effective vaccine. It can provide protection to those that are most likely to become seriously ill from flu and help reduce the spread of flu in the population. While flu is unpleasant for most people it can be very dangerous and even life threatening for some people, particularly people with certain health conditions. For them, it can increase the risk of developing more serious illnesses such as bronchitis and pneumonia or can make existing conditions worse. In the worst cases, flu can result in a stay in hospital, or even death.
It’s offered free every year to eligible groups by the NHS to help protect people at risk of getting seriously ill from flu. If you are eligible for the flu vaccine, it is important to get it every year because the viruses that cause flu change every year. This means the flu (and the vaccine) this year may be different from last year.
The best time to have the flu vaccine is in the autumn or early winter before flu starts spreading. GP surgeries and pharmacies get the flu vaccine in batches to make sure that it is widely available. If you are eligible and cannot get an appointment straight away, ask if you can book an appointment for when more vaccines are available.
If I had the flu jab last year, do I need to have it again now?
Yes, because the viruses that cause flu change every year. This means the flu (and the vaccine) this year may be different from last year. If you had the flu vaccine last year, either because you were pregnant or because you’re in a clinical risk group, you need to have it again this year. 
Is there anyone that shouldn’t get the flu vaccine? 
Almost everybody can have the vaccine, but you should not be vaccinated if you have ever had a serious allergy to the vaccine, or any of its ingredients. If you are allergic to eggs or have a condition that weakens your immune system, you may not be able to have certain types of flu vaccine –check with your immuniser. If you have a fever, the vaccination may be delayed until you are better.
What type of flu vaccine will I be given?
There are several types of flu vaccine depending upon your age:
  • most children over the age of 2 are offered a nasal spray vaccine. A small number cannot have it due to pre-existing medical conditions or treatments and are offered protection through an injected vaccine instead. The nasal spray contains small traces of porcine gelatine. For those who may not accept the use of porcine gelatine in medicines, an injectable vaccine is available.
  • adults are offered an injectable vaccine. There are different types, including low-egg and egg-free ones
  • adults aged 65 years and over –the most common flu vaccine contains an extra ingredient to help your immune system make a stronger response to the vaccine

If your child is aged between 6 months and 2 years old and is in a clinical risk group for flu, they will be offered an injected flu vaccine as the nasal spray is not licensed for children under the age of 2.

Will there be any side effects from the flu vaccine?
Flu vaccines have an excellent safety record. All adult flu vaccines are given by injection into the muscle of the upper arm. Most side effects are mild and only last for a day or so, such as:
  • slightly raised temperature
  • muscle aches
  • sore arm where the needle went in
Try these tips to help reduce the discomfort:
  • continue to move your arm regularly
  • take a painkiller, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen– some people, including those who are pregnant, should not take ibuprofen unless a doctor recommends it.
Side effects of the children’s flu vaccine
The nasal spray flu vaccine for children has an excellent safety record. Most side effects are mild and do not last long, such as:
  • a runny or blocked nose
  • a headache
  • tiredness
  • loss of appetite
When should I get my flu vaccine?
It is best to have the flu vaccination as soon as possible once the vaccine becomes available. The vaccine is offered in the autumn or early winter before any outbreaks of flu. Remember that you need it every year, so don’t assume you are protected because you had one last year.
Where do I get the flu vaccine?
The flu vaccine is offered free on the NHS through GP practice and participating community pharmacies and through schools and community venues for school aged children. Pregnant women can visit their GP or a participating pharmacy and in addition may be able to get the vaccine through their maternity services to help protect themselves and their baby. 
How do I book an appointment?
If you’re eligible for a free flu vaccine, you can book an appointment at your GP surgery or a pharmacy that offers it on the NHS.
You may be invited to get your free vaccine by the NHS or your GP through a letter, text or email. Don’t worry if you do not receive this. If you are eligible, you do not have to wait for this before booking an appointment. 
If you receive an invite from the NHS and have already been vaccinated do not worry, sometimes there is a lag in the information flowing through and you do not need to do anything. Everyone who is eligible for the free flu vaccine will be able to get it. GP surgeries and pharmacies get the flu vaccine in batches to make sure that it is widely available. If you are eligible and cannot get an appointment straight away, ask if you can book an appointment for when more vaccines are available.
How can my child get the flu vaccine?
All children in a clinical risk group can get their flu vaccine at their GP practice. If your child is in a clinical risk group, you do not need to wait for an invite from the School-aged Immunisation Service. Please contact your GP if you would like your child to receive the vaccine earlier in the season.
Children aged 2-3 years old will receive their flu vaccine at their GP practice.
Primary school children will receive their flu vaccine from the local School-aged Immunisation Service. This will either be in school or at a community clinic. 
Who can get the free NHS vaccine this year?
The flu vaccine is offered to people most at risk of getting seriously ill from flu or who are most likely to pass flu to other people at risk. It usually starts to be offered from September and it’s best to have it before flu starts to circulate in the winter. 
How is it decided who is eligible to get the flu vaccine for free on the NHS each year?
The flu vaccine programme aims to reduce the number of people that get seriously ill from flu and reduce the spread of flu by vaccinating children. The government decide which groups will be eligible for free flu vaccination each year. Their decision is based on the independent advice of experts in the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) who review the latest evidence and data. 
Over the last two years there have been lower levels of flu circulating, which means some people will have lower levels of immunity against flu, and Australia have reported more cases of flu than average during their winter. Because of this, the government has decided that the groups that can get the free flu vaccine this year are broadly similar to those that were eligible during the pandemic. Young children and those most at risk from flu will be prioritised before the vaccine is offered to other groups.

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