Find out more about flu vaccination and why it’s important
The flu vaccine is offered every year on the NHS to help protect people at risk of flu and its complications.
It helps protect against the main types of flu viruses, although there’s still a chance you might get flu. If you do get flu after vaccination, it’s likely to be milder and not last as long.
Having the vaccine 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.
More than five million flu vaccinations were carried out in community pharmacies in 2022/23.
The flu vaccine is given free on the NHS to adults who:
✚ Are 65 and over (including those who will be 65 by 31 March 2024)
✚ Have certain health conditions
✚ Are pregnant
✚ Are in long-stay residential care
✚ Receive a carer’s allowance, or are the main carer for an older or disabled person who may be at risk if you get sick
✚ Live with someone who is more likely to get a severe infection due to a weakened immune system, such as someone living with HIV, someone who has had a transplant, or is having certain treatments for cancer, lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.
You should talk to your doctor if you have a long-term health condition that is not included in one of the health conditions eligible for the vaccine. They should offer you a flu vaccine if they think you’re at risk of serious health problems if you get flu.
More information is available via www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/flu-influenza-vaccine
NHS Scotland recommends a person has the flu vaccine if they:
✚ are aged 50 years and over
✚ are aged 18–64 with an eligible health condition
✚ work in social care and deliver direct personal care
✚ are a frontline healthcare worker
✚ are a carer (including unpaid carer)
✚ are an independent contractor or support staff (GP, dental, optometry and community pharmacy practices)
✚ are a teacher or support staff (pupil facing)
✚ are a prison officer or support staff member who delivers direct detention services
For more information on eligibility and how to receive a vaccination, visit the NHS Inform website (www.nhsinform.scot).
In Wales you are advised to have a flu vaccine if:
✚ You are pregnant
✚ You are aged 65 or over
✚ You are aged six months to 64 years and have a long-term health condition that puts you at increased risk from flu, including but not limited to:
- A heart problem
- A chest complaint or breathing difficulties, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma that requires regular steroid inhalers or tablets
- Kidney disease (from stage 3)
- Lowered immunity due to disease or treatment (and also close contacts of people in this group)
- Liver disease
- Had a stroke or mini stroke
- A neurological condition like Parkinson’s disease, or motor neurone disease
- A missing spleen or a problem with it
- Learning disability
- Severe mental illness
- Morbidly obese (class III obesity). This is defined as those with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 40 or above, aged 16 or over.
✚ You live in a care home or you are a carer or a health or social care worker
✚ You are homeless
Vaccinations are available from GPs and community pharmacies, in most cases. For full information on eligibility in Wales, visit the Public Health Wales website
In Northern Ireland you should get a flu vaccination if you:
✚ Are pregnant
✚ Are aged 50 or over, even if you feel fit and healthy
✚ Live in a residential or nursing home
✚ Have an illness or underlying health condition (including children from six months of age)
✚ The annual flu vaccination programme also includes:
✚ Carers – if you care for another person, you should ask your GP if you should be vaccinated so you can continue caring for them
Other people who should get the vaccine are:
✚ Frontline health and social care (HSC) workers (as defined in the Green Book chapter 14a)
✚ Staff in independent care homes, hospices and domiciliary care providers
✚ Close contacts of immunocompromised individuals
✚ People with a chronic heart condition, chronic liver disease, chronic kidney disease or diabetes
✚ Lowered immunity due to disease or steroids or cancer therapy
✚ A chronic neurological condition such as a stroke or very high BMI (ask your doctor if you are unsure)
✚ You can get your vaccine from a community pharmacist or from your local Trust.
People living in Northern Ireland should visit www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/flu-vaccine for more details on how and where to receive the flu vaccination.