Vaccinations
NHS Choices

Who should have the flu vaccine?

Who should have a flu vaccine?

Flu vaccination is recommended for some people. For most people, flu is an unpleasant illness, but it's not serious. If you are otherwise healthy, you will usually recover from flu within a week. However, certain people are more likely to develop potentially serious complications of flu, such as bronchitis and pneumonia. These people are advised to have a flu vaccine each year to help protect them.

People who should have a flu vaccine

The injected flu vaccine is offered free of charge on the NHS to people who are most at risk of developing complications if they catch flu. This is to ensure they are protected against catching flu and developing serious complications. Some people are recommended to have a flu vaccine to reduce the risk of them spreading flu to others, such as carers.

You are eligible to receive a free flu vaccine if you:

  • are 65 years of age or over
  • are pregnant
  • have certain medical conditions
  • are very overweight
  • are living in a long-stay residential care home or other long-stay care facility
  • receive a carer's allowance, or you are the main carer for an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if you fall ill
  • are a healthcare worker with direct patient contact, or a social care worker

Aged 65 and overs and the flu vaccine

You are eligible for the flu vaccine this year (2017-18) if you are aged 65 and over on March 31 2018

– that is, you were born on or before March 31 1953. So, if you are currently 64 but will be 65 on March 31 2018, you do qualify.

Pregnant women and the flu vaccine

If you're pregnant, you're advised to have the injectable flu vaccine, regardless of the stage of pregnancy you've reached.

That's because there's strong evidence to suggest pregnant women have an increased risk of developing complications if they get flu.

If you're pregnant, you will benefit from the flu vaccine because:

  • it reduces your chance of getting serious complications of flu, such as pneumonia, particularly in the later stages of pregnancy
  • it reduces your risk of having a miscarriage, or your baby being born prematurely or with a low birth weight because of the flu
  • it will help protect your baby as they will continue to have some immunity to flu for the first few months of their life

It's safe to have the flu vaccine at any stage of pregnancy from conception onwards. The vaccine doesn't carry any risks for you or your baby. Talk to your GP or midwife if you are unsure about the vaccination.

Read more about the flu vaccine in pregnancy.

Flu vaccine for people with medical conditions

The injected flu vaccine is offered free of charge on the NHS to people with serious long-term health conditions. That includes these types of illnesses:

  • chronic (long-term) respiratory diseases, such as asthma (which requires an inhaled or tablet steroid treatment, or has led to hospital admission in the past), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or bronchitis
  • chronic heart disease, such as heart failure
  • chronic kidney disease
  • chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis 
  • chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson's disease or motor neurone disease
  • diabetes
  • problems with your spleen – for example, sickle cell disease or if you have had your spleen removed
  • a weakened immune system as the result of conditions such as HIV and AIDS, or medication such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy

This list of conditions isn't definitive. It's always an issue of clinical judgement.

Your GP can assess you individually to take into account the risk of flu exacerbating any underlying illness you may have, as well as your risk of serious illness from flu itself.

If you live with someone who has a weakened immune system, you may also be advised to have a flu vaccine. Speak to your GP or pharmacist about this.

Flu vaccine if you're very overweight

Annual flu vaccine is recommended for anyone aged 18 or over who is severely overweight with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or more.

Read more about BMI and how to check it.

Flu vaccine for children

The flu vaccine is recommended for:

  • children six months and over with a long-term health condition
  • children aged two and three years (age on 31 August 2017)
  • children in reception class and year 1, year 2, year 3 and year 4 in primary school.

Children aged between six months and two years of age who are eligible for the flu vaccine should have the flu jab.

Children eligible for the flu vaccine aged between two and 17 will usually have the nasal spray flu vaccine.

Read about who should have the children's flu vaccine.

Flu vaccine for health and social care workers

Outbreaks of flu can occur in health and social care settings, and, because flu is so contagious, staff, patients and residents are all at risk of infection.

If you're a front-line health and social care worker, you are recommended to have a flu vaccine to protect yourself, your colleagues and other members of the community, and to protect the people in your care.

It is your employer's responsibility to arrange vaccination for you.

Flu vaccine for unpaid carers

If you care for someone who is elderly or disabled, or someone whose health or welfare may be at risk if you fall ill, speak to your GP surgery or community pharmacist about having a flu vaccine. Even if you don’t live with the person you care for you may still be eligible for a free vaccine.

Read more about the flu vaccine for carers on the Carers UK website.

Leaflets

Click here to see all vaccination leaflets.


Last Updated: 01/04/2017 09:00:00