Flu vaccination for adults
Flu vaccination is safe and effective. It's offered every year through the NHS to help protect people at risk of getting seriously ill from flu.
If you are eligible for a flu vaccination, book straight away. Though you will receive a text message or letter from your GP, you don’t need to wait for this.
Flu: a description
Flu is a virus that infects the windpipe and lungs. Flu will often get better on its own, but it can make some people seriously ill. The best way to avoid catching and spreading flu is by having the vaccination before the flu season starts.
Reasons to get the flu vaccine:
It's important to get the NHS flu vaccine if you're eligible. It is free and safe and helps those most at risk of flu from becoming seriously ill.
While flu is not nice for anyone to get, for some people it can be very dangerous and even life threatening, 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 mean a stay in hospital, or even death.
Who the flu vaccine is for:
- all children aged 2 or 3 years old
- all primary school aged children (from Reception to Year 6)
- anyone aged 6 months and over in a clinical risk group
- pregnant women
- people aged 50 and over (including those who will be 50 years old by 31 March 2023)
- those in long-stay residential care homes
- carers in receipt of a carer’s allowance, or who are the main carer of an older or disabled person who may be at risk if the carer gets sick
- those that live with someone who is more likely to get infections (such as someone living with HIV, has had a transplant or is having certain treatments for cancer, lupus or rheumatoid arthritis)
- frontline health or social care workers (that do not have access to occupational health)
Where to get the flu vaccine:
You can have the NHS flu vaccine at:
- your GP surgery
- a pharmacy offering the service – if you're aged 18 or over. Find your closest pharmacy online.
- some maternity services if you're pregnant
- Sometimes, you might be offered the flu vaccine at a hospital appointment.
Flu vaccination for people with long-term health conditions:
The flu jab is offered free on the NHS to anyone with a serious long-term health condition, including:
- respiratory conditions, such as asthma (needing a steroid inhaler or tablets), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), including emphysema and bronchitis
- heart conditions, such as coronary heart disease or heart failure
- being very overweight – a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or above
- chronic kidney disease
- liver disease, such as hepatitis
- some neurological conditions, such as Parkinson's disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), or cerebral palsy
- a learning disability
- problems with your spleen like sickle cell disease, or if you've had your spleen removed
- a weakened immune system as a result of conditions such as HIV and AIDS, or taking medicines such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy
Talk to your doctor if you have a long-term condition that is not in one of these groups. They should offer you a flu vaccine if they think you're at risk of serious problems if you get flu.
Flu vaccination in pregnancy:
It's recommended that all pregnant women have the flu jab, whatever stage of pregnancy they're at. It's free for pregnant women.
Why pregnant women are advised to have the flu jab:
A flu jab will help protect both you and your baby. There is good evidence that pregnant women have a higher chance of developing complications if they get flu, particularly in the later stages of pregnancy.
One of the most common complications of flu is bronchitis, a chest infection that can become serious and develop into pneumonia.
If you have flu while you're pregnant, it could cause your baby to be born early or have a low birthweight, and may even lead to stillbirth or death.
The flu vaccine is safe in pregnancy:
Studies have shown that it's safe to have a flu vaccine at any stage of pregnancy, from the first few weeks up to your expected due date.
Women who have had a flu vaccine while pregnant also pass some protection on to their babies, which lasts for the first few months of their lives.
It's safe for women who are breastfeeding to have a flu vaccine if they're eligible (for example, because of a long-term health condition).
When to have the flu jab:
The best time to have a flu vaccine is in the autumn, before flu starts circulating. If you've missed this time, you can be vaccinated later in the winter although it's best to get it earlier.
Do not worry if you find that you're pregnant later in the flu season – you can have the vaccine then if you have not already had it.
How to get the flu vaccine:
Contact your midwife or GP surgery to find out where you can get a flu vaccine. It's a good idea to get vaccinated as soon as possible after the vaccine becomes available in September.
You can have your flu vaccine at a GP surgery or pharmacy. You may also be able to get your flu vaccine at an antenatal clinic, please speak to your midwife.
Annual flu vaccination:
If you had the flu jab last year, you still need to have it again now, because the viruses that cause flu change every year. The flu 'strains' that the vaccines are designed to prevent this year may be different from last year.
If you had the flu vaccine during the last flu season because you were pregnant (same pregnancy or a previous pregnancy), or because you're in a vulnerable group, you need to have it again this year.
Having the flu jab at the same time as the whooping cough vaccine
You can have a flu vaccine at the same time as the whooping cough vaccine, but do not delay your flu jab so you can have both at the same time.
Pregnant women are at risk of severe illness from flu at any stage of pregnancy, so you need to have a flu vaccine as soon as possible.
The best time to get vaccinated against whooping cough is from 16 weeks up to 32 weeks of pregnancy.
If you miss having the vaccine for any reason, you can still have it up until you go into labour.
Many people who are more susceptible to flu are also at greater risk from covid-19 so make sure you’re also up to date with your covid vaccinations. Make sure to have your booster/s if eligible.
If you’re able to get a covid-19 booster dose and a flu vaccination at the same time, it is safe to do so. Not all providers will be able to offer them at the same time though, so you may need separate appointments.
The vaccine is not suitable for everyone:
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 GP or pharmacist. If you have a fever, the vaccination may be delayed until you are better.