People who should get the vaccine
Some people are at greater risk from the effects of flu and should get the vaccine. There's an increased risk if:
- you're pregnant
- you're aged 65 or over, even if you feel fit and healthy
- you live in a residential or nursing home
- you're the main carer for an elderly or disabled person - ask your GP if you should be vaccinated so you can continue caring for the person
People with illnesses or health conditions
Children over six months old and adults should get the vaccine if they have:
- a chronic chest condition such as asthma
- a chronic heart condition
- chronic liver disease
- chronic kidney disease
- lowered immunity due to disease or treatment such as steroids or cancer therapy
- a chronic neurological condition such as stroke, multiple sclerosis or a condition that affects the nervous system such as cerebral palsy
- a very high body weight (BMI greater than 40)
- any other serious medical condition, ask your doctor if you're unsure
Additions to the annual flu vaccine programme for 2020/2021
Additional vaccine has been secured which will allow for the following groups to receive a free flu vaccination during the 2020/21 flu vaccination programme:
- household contacts of those who received shielding letters during the Covid-19 pandemic can request vaccination via their GP
- school children in year 8 (those who will be in the first year of secondary school from September 2020)
Subject to vaccine availability, the programme may be extended by December to include those in the 50-64 year old age group who are not in clinical risk groups, starting with the oldest first.
This extension will be phased to allow GP practices to prioritise those in a clinical at risk group.
Protection against common flu strains
Each year the flu vaccine protects against the three most common strains of flu. You are more at risk from flu complications if you fall into any of the categories listed above. In the worst cases, flu can result in a stay in hospital or even death.
You should get the vaccine even if you got it last year and you feel fit and healthy now.
Flu vaccine in pregnancy
Flu infection during pregnancy can be very harmful to mother and baby. Serious complications include:
- heart problems
- lung problems
The flu vaccine is safe for pregnant women and their babies. If you're pregnant, you should get the vaccine to protect you and your baby from flu, regardless of your stage of pregnancy.
To get the vaccine, contact your GP.
Flu vaccine and allergic reactions
If you had an anaphylactic reaction to a previous flu vaccine, you may not be able to get the flu vaccine. The healthcare worker giving the flu vaccines will be able to tell you if this is the case.
If you have any other allergies, for example, egg or latex there may be only certain types of flu vaccines that you can get and you should discuss any allergies that you have with your GP or nurse administering the flu vaccine.
How the flu vaccine works
The flu vaccine cannot give you flu. The vaccine is made from small parts of the flu virus.
7-14 days after you get the vaccine, your body makes antibodies to the vaccine viruses. These antibodies help protect you against flu.
Flu vaccine for children
Children should get the flu vaccine if:
- they were previously in hospital with a chest infection
- they go to a school for children with severe learning difficulty
The annual flu vaccination programme includes:
- pre-school children aged two years and over
- children at primary school
- children in year 8