Vaccinations
NHS Choices

Flu vaccine: FAQs

When am I most at risk from flu?

Can I go to work or school if I have been in contact with somebody who has recently been diagnosed with flu?

Does everyone need a flu vaccine?

Why are certain groups targeted for the flu vaccine?

Can a GP vaccinate anyone else?

Is my child entitled to the flu vaccine?

How long will the flu vaccine protect me for?

Can I have a flu vaccine while I'm taking antibiotics?

How long does the flu vaccine take to become effective?

If I had the flu vaccine last year, do I need it again now?

Can the flu vacccine cause flu?

When is the best time to get my flu vaccine?

Is there anyone who cannot have a flu vaccine?

Can people get the flu vaccine privately?

Why is it recommended that healthcare workers are vaccinated?

Can I have a flu vaccine if I'm breastfeeding?

Is it OK to have the flu vaccine at any time during pregnancy?

How do I get the flu vaccine if my GP has run out?

Do I need Tamiflu and how do I get a prescription?

I have had flu symptoms for five days. Can I have visitors?

When am I most at risk from flu?

Flu circulates every winter and that is when there is the highest risk of flu. This means many people sometimes get ill around the same time. I it is impossible to predict how many cases of flu there will be each year.

Can I go to work or school if I have been in contact with somebody who has recently been diagnosed with flu?

Yes. You should go about your everyday business, but stay at home if you develop flu-like symptoms.

Does everyone need a flu vaccine?

People who are at increased risk of problems if they catch flu can have a flu vaccine on the NHS. Ask your GP surgery or community pharmacy about having an NHS flu vaccination if:

  • you're aged 65 or over
  • you're pregnant
  • you have a serious medical condition
  • you're very overweight
  • 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 17 years

Children aged 2 to 8 years of age (this is their age on 31 August 2017) should have a flu vaccine. If you are not sure if you or your child is eligible for an NHS flu vaccine discuss this with your general practice or community pharmacist, or your child’s school nurse.

Health and social care workers directly involved in patient/client care should have a flu vaccination. If you think this is you then talk to your employer or occupational health service.

Why are only certain groups given NHS flu vaccines?

Some people are more at risk of complications if they catch flu, and these people are offered  NHS flu vaccinations.

Complications such as bronchitis and pneumonia are more common in older people, those with long term conditions, very young babies, and pregnant women. Almost all of the deaths related to flu are in people in these groups.

By offering the flu vaccine to carers and health and social care workers this helps protect the individual and also helps prevent the spread of flu to individuals who may be at high risk of complications

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 vaccine?

If your child is between the ages of 2 and 8 years old (age on 31 August 2017) they should have a flu vaccine. All two and three year olds plus all children in reception class and school years 1-4 in primary school are eligible for the nasal spray flu vaccine.

If your child is between six months of age and 18 and has a health condition that means they are at high risk of becoming very ill if they catch flu they should have a flu vaccine every year.

 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 vaccine injection.

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.

How long will the flu vaccine protect me for?

A flu vaccine will provide some protection for the upcoming flu season. People eligible for flu vaccination should have the vaccine each year.

Can I have the flu vaccine while I'm taking antibiotics?

Yes, it's fine to have the flu vaccine while you are taking a course of antibiotics, provided you are not ill with 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 vaccine.

If I had the flu vaccine last year, do I need it again now?

Yes. Immunity wanes, and 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 vaccine 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 vaccines are very safe.

When is the best time to get my flu vaccine?

The best time is as soon as your GP gets supplies of the vaccine. This will usually be from the beginning of October. But don't worry if you've missed this time, you can have the flu vaccine right up to the end of the flu season which can be in February and March.

Is there anyone who cannot have a flu vaccine?

Most people can have a flu vaccine but a very small number cannot.

You should not have the flu vaccine if you have ever had an allergic reaction to the flu vaccine or one of its ingredients. This happens very rarely.

If you have an egg allergy, tell the doctor, nurse or pharmacist before having the vaccine so they can make sure you get an appropriate vaccine in the right place.

Can I get the flu vaccine privately?

People who aren't eligible for a flu vaccine 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 around £10.

Why is it recommended that healthcare workers are vaccinated?

Flu vaccination helps reduce the chance of flu spreading, so helps protect the healthcare workers and reduces the chances of them passing flu on to, or getting flu from, their patients. It also helps the NHS keep running effectively during the winter, when GPs and hospital services are particularly busy.

Can I have a flu vaccine if I'm breastfeeding?

Yes. The vaccine poses no risk to a breastfeeding mother or her baby.

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, which can be serious.

How do I get the flu vaccine if my GP has run out?

If your GP surgery has run out of flu vaccine, they should work to obtain further supplies. The vaccine manufacturers and suppliers usually have stocks available for ordering into the spring although some years they do run out.

Do I need Tamiflu and how do I get a prescription?

Tamiflu® is an antiviral medicine that is used to treat flu. Your GP will decide if you need Tamiflu® and will prescribe it if necessary.

I have had flu symptoms for five days. Can I have visitors?

If it’s flu you are probably not infectious after five days.

Leaflets

Click here to see all vaccination leaflets.


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