The flu vaccine

Catching the flu is miserable at the best of times. But for some people, the flu causes serious and sometimes life-threatening complications.

The flu vaccine is offered free on the NHS every year to those that are most at risk.

If you have been recommended the flu vaccine - please call 03308082217 or email gpathand@nhs.net to book an appointment.

Who is eligible for a free NHS flu vaccine?

People aged over 65

  • If you were born on or before the 31st of March 1955, you are eligible for a free flu vaccine. (If you are 64 but will turn 65 on the 31st of March next year, you can have a free flu vaccine this year.)


Pregnant people

  • The vaccine is safe in pregnancy and comes highly recommended.
  • Catching the flu whilst pregnant can be dangerous for you and for your baby too. There is an increased risk of premature birth, low birth weight, still-birth and death.
  • Having the flu vaccine during pregnancy means some of the immunity will pass on to your baby. This protects them for a few months after birth.
  • You can have the vaccine at any point during your pregnancy.


Children

Children eligible for free NHS vaccination include those:

  • Aged 6 months to 17 years, with a long term health condition
  • Born between the 1st of September 2015 and 31st of August 2017

Primary school children are also eligible. Arrangements for this are made by their school.

Children aged 2-17 will usually be offered the flu vaccine nasal spray. For those children aged 6 months to 2 years that are eligible, the injected flu vaccine will be given.


People with certain medical conditions

If you have one of the following conditions, it is usually recommended that you have a flu vaccine:

  • Asthma - requiring an inhaled or tablet steroid treatment, or that has led to hospital admission in the past
  • COPD, emphysema or bronchitis
  • Heart disease e.g. heart failure
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Liver disease e.g. hepatitis
  • Neurological conditions e.g. multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease
  • Diabetes
  • Problems with your spleen e.g. spleen has been removed, sickle cell disease
  • A weakened immune system e.g. HIV, aids, on chemotherapy, taking steroids
  • Being seriously overweight - a BMI of 40 or above

There are also other occasions where your GP will recommend the flu vaccine to be in your best interests.


Carers

If you receive a carer’s allowance or are the main carer for an elderly or disabled person, you are eligible for the flu vaccine.

If you live with someone who has a weakened immune system, you might be recommended to have a flu vaccine. Speak to your GP about this.


People living in care facilities

People living in long-stay residential care homes, or other long-stay care facilities, are recommended to have the flu vaccine.


Frontline health and social care workers

Your employer will usually arrange for you to have the flu vaccine. Speak to your employer if you have any questions about this.

Flu vaccine FAQ's

How does the flu vaccine work?

Flu is caused by the influenza virus, of which there are 4 types; A, B, C and D.

Type A and B tend to be responsible for flu season. (Type C generally causes mild symptoms and type D mostly affects cattle and not humans.)

Both type A and type B influenza viruses are then further subdivided into different strains. The genetic make-up of each strain is slightly different.

Every year, the World Health Organisation looks at which influenza strains are around. They then make a prediction about what strains are likely to be involved in the upcoming flu season. A vaccine is then manufactures to protect against 3 or 4 of those strains.

When should I have the flu vaccine?

It is best to get the vaccine before flu season starts. Flu season typically begins in October or November. It continues through until February or March.

Our GP at Hand flu clinic will start mid October. You will receive a text from us inviting you to book an appointment.

You can also have your free flu vaccine at a local pharmacy.

If October has flown by, it is still a good idea to have it done as it will offer you protection for the rest of the season.

Can the vaccine give me the flu?

No. Flu vaccines are created in such a way that they don't give you the flu.

It takes about 2 weeks for your body to properly respond to the flu vaccine. If you are exposed to the flu at some point within those 2 weeks, you might still get the flu. This is often the reason why people think the flu vaccine has given them the flu.

Does the flu vaccine stop me from catching the flu completely?

Sadly not. It is hard to predict which strain will cause this season’s flu, so the vaccine isn’t always a perfect fit. Fortunately, there is often overlap between the different virus strains. So your flu symptoms will likely be milder if you’ve had the flu vaccine.

For more information about the flu, when to speak to a doctor and how to treat it at home - check our flu information page.