Flu circulates every winter. This means many people get ill around the same time. In a bad year, this can be an epidemic. However, it is impossible to predict how many cases of flu there will be each year.
Does everyone need a flu jab?
No, just people who are at particular risk of problems if they catch flu. Ask your GP about having an NHS flu vaccination if:
- you're aged 65 or over
- you're pregnant
- you have a serious medical condition
- you live in a residential or nursing home
- you're the main carer for an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if you fall ill
- your child is in an at-risk group and is aged six months to two years
You should also be offered the flu vaccination if you are a healthcare or social care worker directly involved in patient care.
Some pharmacies also offer free NHS flu vaccination to eligible adults. They do not offer this service for children.
Find out more about who should have the flu vaccine.
Why are certain groups targeted for the flu jab?
Complications such as bronchitis and pneumonia are more common in people with other diseases, especially if they are also elderly. Almost all of the deaths related to flu are in people in these groups.
In long-stay residential homes, vaccination helps prevent the rapid spread of flu among residents.
Can a GP vaccinate anyone else?
The final decision about who should be offered the vaccination on the NHS is a matter for your GP, based on your medical history and circumstances.
Is my child entitled to the flu jab?
If your child is aged between six months and two years old and is in a high-risk group for flu, they should have the flu jab.
If your child is between two and 17 years old and is in a high-risk group for flu, they should have the nasal spray flu vaccine instead of the injection.
Children aged two and three plus children in reception class and school years one, two, three and four are also eligible for the nasal spray flu vaccine.
How long will the flu jab protect me for?
The flu jab will provide protection for you for the upcoming flu season. People eligible for flu vaccination should have the vaccine each year.
Can I have the flu jab while I'm taking antibiotics?
Yes, it's fine to have the flu jab while you are taking a course of antibiotics, provided you are not ill with a fever.
How long does the flu vaccine take to become effective?
It takes between 10 and 14 days for your immune system to respond fully after you've had the flu jab.
If I had the flu jab last year, do I need it again now?
Yes. The viruses that cause flu can change every year, which means the flu (and the vaccine) this winter may be different from last winter.
Can the flu jab cause flu?
No. The vaccine does not contain any live viruses, so it cannot cause flu. You may get a slight temperature and aching muscles for a couple of days afterwards, and your arm may feel a bit sore where you had the injection. Other reactions are rare, and flu jabs have a good safety record.
When is the best time to get my flu jab?
The best time to have a flu vaccine is in the autumn, from the beginning of October to early November. But don't worry if you've missed this time, you can have the flu jab later in the winter although it's best to get it as early as possible.
Is there anyone who cannot have a flu jab?
Yes. You should not have the flu vaccine if you have ever had an allergic reaction to a flu vaccine or one of its ingredients. This happens very rarely. You also need to take precautions if you have an egg allergy.
Read more about who should not have the flu jab.
Can I get the flu vaccine privately?
People who aren't eligible for a flu jab on the NHS can pay for a flu vaccination privately. The flu vaccine may be available from pharmacies or in supermarkets. It is provided on a private patient basis and you have to pay. The vaccine costs up to £20.
Why is it recommended that healthcare workers are vaccinated?
Vaccination prevents healthcare workers passing flu on to, or getting flu from, their patients. It also helps the NHS to keep running effectively during a flu outbreak, when GPs and hospital services are particularly busy.
Can I have a flu jab if I'm breastfeeding?
Yes. The vaccine poses no risk to a breastfeeding mother or her baby, or to pregnant women.
Is it OK to have the flu vaccine during pregnancy?
Yes. The flu vaccine is recommended for pregnant women and is safe to have at any stage of pregnancy, including in the first trimester and right up to the expected due date. It helps protect the mother-to-be and her newborn baby from catching flu.
Read more about the flu jab in pregnancy.
How do I get the flu vaccine if my GP has run out?
If your GP has run out of flu vaccine, vaccine manufacturers and suppliers may have stocks available for ordering.
Some local pharmacies offer a free flu vaccination service to NHS patients who are eligible for flu vaccination. This service is only available for adults, however, not children.