Flu vaccination is available every year and is free on the NHS for many of us; vaccinating directly protects adults and children at risk of flu and its complications and reduces the number of cases in your community so others are less likely to catch it too.
Flu can be unpleasant, but if you’re otherwise healthy, it’ll usually clear up on its own within a week but it can be more severe in certain people, such as:
- anyone aged 65 and over
- pregnant women
- children and adults with an underlying health condition (such as long-term heart or respiratory disease)
- children and adults with weakened immune systems
People these groups are more likely to develop potentially serious complication of flu such as pneumonia (a lung infection), so it’s recommended that they have a flu vaccine every year to help protect themselves.
Who should get the flu vaccine?
The flu vaccine is routinely given on the NHS to:
- adults 65 and over
- people with certain medical conditions (including children in at-risk groups from 6 months of age)
- pregnant women
- children aged 2 and 3 on 31 August 2019
- children in primary school
- frontline health or social care workers
Where to get the flu vaccine
You can have your NHS flu vaccine at:
- your GP surgery
- a local pharmacy offering the service
Some community pharmacies now offer flu vaccination to adults (but not children) at risk of flu, including pregnant women, people aged 65 and over, people with long-term health conditions and carers. If you have your flu vaccine at a pharmacy, you do not have to inform a GP. It’s up to the pharmacist to do that.
How effective is the flu vaccine?
Flu vaccine is the best protection we have against a virus that can cause unpleasant illness in children and severe illness and death among at-risk groups, including older people, pregnant women and those with an underlying medical health condition.
Studies have shown that the flu vaccine will help prevent you getting the flu but it will not stop all flu viruses and the level of protection may vary, so it’s not a 100% guarantee that you’ll be flu-free but if you do get flu after vaccination, it’s likely to be milder and shorter-lived than it would otherwise have been.
Over time, protection from the injected flu vaccine gradually decreases, and flu strains often change, which is why people are advised to have the flu vaccine every year.
Flu vaccine side effects
Serious side effects of the injected flu vaccine are very rare. You may have a mild fever and aching muscles for a couple of days after having the vaccine, and your arm may be a bit sore where you were injected.
Side effects of the nasal spray vaccine may commonly include a runny or blocked nose, a headache, tiredness and some loss of appetite.
How safe is the flu vaccine?
The flu vaccines used in the national programme have a good safety record. Flu vaccines that have been licensed recently in England have been thoroughly tested before they’re made available, and have been used in other countries with a good safety record.
Other benefits of vaccinating
Having a vaccination protects you from having the flu. This helps other people too. If you dont have the flu you cant pass it on, and the people you could have infected wont be passing it on either so you help the entire community when you vaccinate.
You also help the NHS by being vaccinated. If you have complications from the flu and need to be admitted this takes a lot of resources, time and money usually at a time of year when the NHS is struggling. Having a quick jab is cheap and quick for the NHS compared to the cost of them treating someone with flu complications.
Find out more
If you need more information on booking a flu jab then speak to your GP surgery or visit the nhs website here: