Vaccinations
NHS Choices

Flu vaccine: FAQs

When am I at most risk from the flu?

The highest risk of flu is in the winter. Flu circulates every winter and this means many people sometimes get ill around the same time.

Flu spreads easily, so if you have been in contact with someone who has flu you are at high risk of catching it.

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 remember to practice good hygiene such as handwashing and 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 free NHS flu vaccine. 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 long-term medical condition
  • you're very overweight (adults only)
  • you live in a residential or nursing home
  • you are the carers of a person whose health or welfare may be at risk if you fall ill
  • You work in an adult care home or children’s hospice and have regular client contact

Children aged 2 to 10 years of age (this is their age on 31 August 2019) 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 to care home workers with regular client contact this helps protect the individual and also helps prevent the spread of flu to individuals who may be at high risk of complications. Frontline health and social care workers should also have the vaccine to protect against spreading flu to the people they care for.

Vaccinating children against flu aged 2 to 10 years old helps protect the child from flu and reduces the chance of them spreading flu to others who may be at high risk from flu such as babies, grandparents and people with long-term health conditions.  

Can a flu vaccine be given to anyone else?

For people not in a defined groups eligible for NHS flu vaccine 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.

Flu vaccine is available to purchase privately from many community pharmacies.

Is my child entitled to the flu vaccine

If your child is between the ages of 2 and 10 years old (age on 31 August 2019) they should have a flu vaccine. All two and three year olds plus all children primary school (reception class to school year 6) are eligible for the nasal spray flu vaccine.

If your child is aged six months to 17 years 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 under 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 with the flu vaccine protect for?

A flu vaccine takes about 2 weeks to work.  People eligible for flu vaccination should have the vaccine each year for best protection in the coming winter season.

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 it take the vaccine to work?

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 flu vaccine injection 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.

The flu nasal spray contains live viruses that have been made so weak it cannot give you flu.

When is the best time to get my flu vaccine?

It is best to have your flu vaccine before flu starts to circulate (this is generally no earlier than mid-December)

The flu vaccines for children and older people generally become available between September and November, and delivery of some vaccines to GP surgeries and community pharmacies will be staggered during that time. Some vaccine will be delivered in batches this year so for some people there may be a slight wait until the recommended vaccine is available.

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, only 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?

The flu vaccine for adults is available to buy from many community pharmacies and supermarkets and  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 also reduces the chances of them passing flu on to, or getting flu from, their patients. Hospitals can experience outbreaks of flu which can be serious as patients are often extremely vulnerable to complications. It also helps the NHS keep running effectively during the winter, when GP surgeries and hospital services are particularly busy.

Why is it recommended that care home staff have a flu vaccine?

Flu vaccination helps reduce the chance of flu spreading, so helps protect the healthcare workers and also reduces the chances of them passing flu on to, or getting flu from, their patients. Hospitals can experience outbreaks of flu which can be serious as patients are often extremely vulnerable to complications. It also helps the NHS keep running effectively during the winter, when GP surgeries and hospital services are particularly busy.

Can I have the 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. Another option is to try your community pharmacy.

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

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Last Updated: 11/11/2019 13:09:39