Influenza Vaccinations (flu)

It is important to get both your influenza (flu) and COVID-19 vaccinations this winter. This is to protect you from serious illness this winter. Flu kills around 11,000 people each year in England. 

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.

Flu vaccination is important because:

  • while flu is unpleasant for most people, it can be dangerous and even life threatening for some people, particularly those with certain health conditions
  • more people are likely to get flu this winter as fewer people will have built up natural immunity to it during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • if you get flu and COVID-19 at the same time, research shows you're more likely to be seriously ill

This year, the following groups are eligible for FREE flu vaccinations through the NHS:
 

Adults Children
  • pregnant women ​
  • those aged 65 years and over ​
  • those in long-stay residential care homes ​
  • those in clinical risk groups​ aged 6 months to under 65 years
  • carers ​
  • close contacts of immunocompromised individuals ​
  • frontline health and care staff

Starting from mid-October, people aged 50 years old or over (including those who will be 50 years old by 31 March 2023) can have a free NHS flu vaccine. This is so at-risk groups can be offered vaccination first.

  • all children aged 2 or 3 years on 31 August 2022
  • those in clinical risk groups​ aged 6 months to under 65 years
  • all primary school aged children (from reception to Year 6) ​
  • Secondary school children in years 7, 8 and 9 and any remaining vaccine will be offered to years 10 and 11, subject to vaccine availability. Vaccine will be offered in order of school year (starting with the youngest first). This group are likely to be offered vaccination later in the year once children age 2 and 3 and primary school age children have been vaccinated. ​

How to get a flu vaccine if you are not eligible

Some people who do not fit into these groups and are not be eligible for a free NHS flu vaccine may be offered for free via their employer. You can also choose to pay for the vaccination yourself.

Where can I get my flu vaccines?

Adults

You can have the NHS flu vaccine at:

  • your GP surgery – wait to be contacted
  • a local pharmacy offering the service – if you're aged 18 or over
  • some maternity services if you're pregnant
  • school - if you have a school-aged child and have signed and return the consent form

Children

Child's Age Where to have the flu vaccine

From 6 months until 2 years
(with a long-term condition)

GP surgery

From 2 years until child
starts primary school

GP surgery

All children at primary school

School

Some secondary school aged children in eligible groups

School

Children in eligible school groups
(with a long-term health condition)

School or GP Ssurgery

Children who are home-schooled or not in mainstream education
(same ages as those offered in eligible groups at schools)

Community clinic

More information on Adult Flu Vaccines

More information on Children Flu Vaccines 

Frequently asked Questions/ Myth Busters

Isn’t the flu just a bad cold?

Colds and flu are caused by different strains of virus and the effects vary hugely. Colds start gradually (runny nose, then sore throat, then a cough) but flu hits you straight away and most commonly starts with a fever. With the flu, you can expect to have a fever, headaches, extreme tiredness, cough, sore throat, nasal congestion and body aches.

The flu is a much more dangerous virus than a cold. This is because it is a contagious disease of the nose, throat, and lungs that can lead to complications including pneumonia, bronchitis, meningitis and encephalitis. It can also cause chronic conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes, to get worse.

Even healthy people can be ill for up to two weeks with the flu and it can disrupt your work and social plans.

The flu spreads easily from person to person and you can spread it even if you are not showing any symptoms. People of all ages are seriously affected by flu every year. Protect yourself and others by having your flu vaccine.

The flu is not serious, so I don’t need a vaccine?

The flu can be a serious and sometimes fatal illness which may lead to hospital treatment, especially if your immune system is vulnerable.

However, even healthy people can get the flu and develop complications including sinus and ear infections, pneumonia and heart or brain inflammation.

I have had the flu so it is too late to be vaccinated

As flu is caused by several viruses, the immunity you naturally developed will only protect you against one of them. You could go on to catch another strain.

I thought only old people get flu?

Anyone of any age can catch flu – but you are more at risk of serious complications if you are over 65 years old, you have long-term medical conditions like heart, lung, liver or kidney problems or you have lowered immunity due to an illness, a treatment or because you are pregnant.

Healthcare professionals working closely with patients are also at greater risk and should have their flu vaccine.

Can I have the vaccine if I am pregnant?

It is very important that if you are pregnant you get the flu vaccine, because your immune system is weaker than usual. The inactivated flu vaccine is safe at any stage of your pregnancy.

How has the flu vaccine been tested and is it safe?

All vaccines, including flu vaccines, have to be tested before they can be licensed in the UK, and they have to be licensed before they can be used.

Flu vaccines have been in use since the 1960s and they are one of the most commonly administered medicines.

Like all medicines, you may experience side effects when you get your flu vaccine, but these are generally mild and usually go away in a day or two without needing treatment.

Can antibiotics cure flu?

Antibiotics cannot cure flu. Antibiotics kill bacteria. Flu is caused by viruses, which don’t respond to antibiotics.

Sometimes people who experience complications as a result of flu can be given antibiotics because they develop a bacterial infection (such as pneumonia) – but this is not flu itself. Instead, it is the result of the body being weakened by the virus and letting bacteria take hold.

Can the flu vaccine can give me the flu?

The injected flu vaccine contains an inactivated virus that cannot give you the flu. If you feel achy or slightly feverish, it is a normal reaction of the immune system to the vaccine and generally lasts only a day or two.

The flu vaccine for children is a nasal spray (sprayed into the nose), not an injection. This live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV) contains live forms of flu virus which have been weakened (attenuated). These stimulate the immune system but do not cause disease in healthy people.

Can the flu vaccine cause severe side effects?

The flu vaccine is proven to be safe and severe side effects are extremely rare.

A very rare side effect is Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) a neurological condition which may cause muscle weakness and paralysis.

I had the vaccine and still got the flu, so how do the vaccines work?

Several flu viruses are circulating all the time, which is why you may still get the flu despite being vaccinated. However, getting your flu jab improves your chance of being protected against the flu.

The flu vaccine is updated every year to take account of the different flu viruses. During the last 10 years, the vaccine has generally been a good match for the circulating strains of flu.

It’s not safe to get my flu jab at the NHS

The NHS has taken every precaution to protect you and put robust plans in place to provide flu jabs in a COVID-safe way. If you are invited for a flu jab appointment, it's important you attend. If you are eligible for a flu vaccine and have not heard from the NHS, please ask your GP practice.

I heard the flu shot contains Covid-19

Recent posts on social media claiming that the flu vaccine contains COVID-19 are false. The flu vaccine has been used for many years and does not contain SARS-CoV-2, the new coronavirus strain that causes COVID-19.

The flu vaccine will make you test positive for Covid-19

The flu jab will not make you test positive for coronavirus. The COVID-19 test looks for the specific genetic sequence of SARS-CoV-2 virus. Flu viruses have a very different genetic sequence. The flu vaccine can definitely not affect the result of the COVID-19 test.

Is there mercury in the vaccine?

There is no mercury present in the vaccine. One vaccine may have a tiny amount of ethylmercury or ‘thiomersal’ left in it from the manufacturing process but, ethylmercury is completely safe. You would get more mercury from a single tuna sandwich than from the flu vaccine.

The flu vaccine comes with a microchip implant

An edited video has been shared on social media showing people being implanted with a microchip. This video was about an American company which offered its staff a microchip implant in their finger to buy snacks or use computers and photocopiers. This was not a video of a flu jab and the flu jab does not contain microchips

The flu jab is not halal

The flu jab does not contain any pork ingredient or gelatine. Only the flu nasal spray for children includes porcine gelatin. The British Fatwa council has permitted the use of the nasal spray in children. You can also ask your GP for an alternative flu vaccine for your child if you do not want them to have the nasal spray.

Will my flu jab protect me straight away?

It takes about two weeks for you to be protected against flu after you get the vaccine. This means that you could be immunised and then pick up flu before you are fully protected. The best way to protect yourself and others against flu is to get vaccinated as early as possible and before there are lots of flu viruses circulating. The vaccine is available from September to March.

Why can’t my child who is under two years old have a nasal spray flu vaccine?

The nasal spray vaccine is not licensed for children younger than 2 because it can be linked to wheezing in children this age.

The flu is not serious for children so it’s best to let them catch it

Flu in children can be serious - it can lead to high fever, painful ear infections, acute bronchitis, pneumonia and even hospitalisation. Give your child the free flu vaccine to help protect them and vulnerable family and friends.

The nasal flu spray can give your child autism

The nasal flu spray will definitely not give your child autism. The claims that the MMR vaccine causes autism have been discredited many times and there is absolutely no link between the nasal flu spray and autism.

The nasal flu spray can give your child Covid

The nasal flu spray has been used for many years and does not contain SARS-CoV-2, the new coronavirus strain that causes COVID-19. The nasal flu spray will definitely not give your child Covid-19.

Can I have both COVID-19 and Flu Vaccines at the same time to save me another journey?

You may choose to have these at the same time (e.g. one in each arm) if this suits you. You may also choose to have them. It is safe to do so either way.

Don’t take the risk of catching or spreading the flu this winter. Protect yourself and others by having your flu vaccine. More information about who should have the flu vaccination.

Do I need to book an appointment?

Most pharmacies don’t require you to book an appointment. Your GP will likely contact you with an appointment if you are eligible for a free flu vaccine.

Information in community languages: https://www.hounslow.gov.uk/downloads/download/684/flu_myth_busters_in_community_languages

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