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The flu vaccine is offered each winter on the NHS to help protect people at risk of flu and its complications.

The flu vaccines help protect against the main types of flu viruses, although you might still get flu. However, if you do get ill after being vaccinated, the flu is likely to be milder and not last as long.

Being vaccinated will also stop you spreading flu to other people who may be more at risk of serious problems. It can take 10 to 14 days for the flu vaccine to work.

Community pharmacies across the United Kingdom provide flu vaccinations. The accessibility of pharmacies, their extended opening hours and the option to walk in without an appointment have proved popular with patients seeking vaccinations.

The 2020/21 NHS Annual Influenza Vaccination Programme was the most successful in the history of the programme in England. Despite the coronavirus pandemic, the efforts of NHS and social care providers saw the best uptake levels yet. More than 2.6 million flu vaccinations were carried out by community pharmacists in 2020/21.

In 2021/22 community pharmacies will again have a major role.

Pharmacies are required to send notification of the vaccination to the patient’s GP practice on the same day the vaccine is administered or the next working day.

Pharmacy has a track record of reaching parts of the population that might otherwise be left unprotected and many pharmacies work in the heart of the country’s most diverse communities.

More than 2.6 million flu vaccinations  were carried out by community pharmacists in 2020/21

Flu vaccination and coronavirus

Whether or not you’ve had COVID-19, it’s safe to have the flu vaccine and it will be effective at helping to prevent flu.

Flu vaccination is important because, if you’re at higher risk from coronavirus, you’re also more at risk of problems from flu. If you get flu and coronavirus at the same time, you are more likely to be seriously ill.

Getting the flu vaccine will help to reduce pressure on NHS and social care staff who may be dealing with coronavirus patients.

Those eligible for NHS influenza vaccination in 2021 to 2022 in England are:

✚ all children aged 2 to 15 (but not 16 years or older) on 31 August 2021

those aged 6 months to under 50 years in clinical risk groups

pregnant women

those aged 50 years and over

those in long-stay residential care homes


close contacts of immunocompromised individuals

frontline health and social care staff

Flu vaccine for people with long-term health conditions

The flu vaccine is also free on the NHS if you have a serious long-term health condition, including:

Respiratory conditions, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), including emphysema and bronchitis


Heart conditions, such as coronary heart disease or heart failure

Are very overweight – a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or above

Chronic kidney disease

Liver disease, such as hepatitis

Neurological conditions (including Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS) or cerebral palsy)

A learning disability

Spleen problems, for example, sickle cell disease, or people who have had their spleen removed

A weakened immune system as the result of conditions such as HIV and AIDS, or taking medicines such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy


The flu vaccine is recommended if you’re pregnant to help protect you and your baby. The flu vaccine is safe at any stage of pregnancy.

Flu vaccine ingredients

Those eligible for the flu vaccine on the NHS will be offered the one that’s most effective for them. This depends on age:

Aged 18 to 64 – different types, including low-egg and egg-free

Aged 65 and over – the most common vaccine contains an extra ingredient to help the immune system make a stronger response to the vaccine

Talk to your pharmacist for more information about these vaccines.

Who should not have the flu vaccine?

Anyone who has had a serious allergic reaction to a flu vaccine in the past should avoid it.

Some flu vaccines are made using eggs, so anyone with an egg allergy may be a risk of an allergic reaction. You can ask your pharmacist for a low-egg or egg-free vaccine.

If you have a high temperature, wait until you’re better before having the flu vaccine.


Free flu vaccines are available for the following groups:

✚ If you are pregnant

If you are aged 50 or over

If you have a long-term health condition that puts you at increased risk from flu

If you live in a care home

The following groups are also advised to have a free flu vaccine to protect them and the people around them:

Children aged two and three years old (age on 31 August 2021)

Children and young people in school years Reception to Year 11


People working directly with patients/clients in health or social care

Those who live with someone who has a compromised immune system


For the 2021-2022 flu season, the following will be invited to receive the free vaccine:

over 50s

people with underlying health conditions which put them at risk

pregnant women

children aged 2-5

health and social care staff

unpaid and young carers

all primary and secondary school age children (given in school setting)

independent NHS contractors, (GP, dental and optometry practices, community pharmacists), laboratory staff (working on Covid-19 testing) including support staff

teachers, nursery teachers and support staff in close contact with pupils

prison staff and support staff and inmates

Northern Ireland

You are eligible if you are:

All preschool children aged 2 to 4 years on 1 September 2021

All primary and secondary (up to year 12) school children

Those aged 6 months to 2 years and 16 to 49 years in clinical risk groups

Anyone who is pregnant

Those aged 50 years and over

Those in long-stay residential care homes


Close contacts of immunocompromised individuals

Frontline health and social care workers