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Flu vaccine (adults)

Free NHS flu vaccination is available every year to people at risk of becoming very ill with flu and those who care for them, to protect against flu and its complications.

Flu can be unpleasant, but if you are otherwise healthy it will usually clear up on its own within a week. However, flu can be serious for some people, and we expect to see flu and COVID-19 both circulating this winter so we all need to do what we can to protect ourselves and our families, and having a flu vaccine is an important part of that protection

Flu is likely to be more severe in certain people, such as:

  • older people
  • pregnant women
  • children and adults with certain long-term health conditions (particularly long-term heart, liver, kidney or respiratory disease)
  • children and adults with weakened immune systems
  • anyone who has had stroke or a mini stroke

People in these risk groups are more likely to develop serious complications of flu, such as pneumonia (a lung infection), so it's important they have a flu vaccine every year to protect them.

The annual flu vaccine is free on the NHS to:

  • people aged 6 months and over who are at risk of complications from flu due to certain long term health conditions
  • people with a learning disability
  • people from the age of 16 with a higher body weight (a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or more)
  • people with severe mental illness 
  • those who have a weakened immune system (are immunosuppressed) and their household contacts
  • everyone aged 50 and over
  • Carers  
  • Care home staff with regular client contact.
  • People working as a carer giving care in people’s homes
  • people who are homeless

For eligible people aged from 6 months up to 2 years, and also those aged 18 and above, the flu vaccine is an injection. For those eligible and aged 2 to 17 years of age it is a nasal spray.

The annual nasal flu spray vaccination is available to all children aged two and three years (age on 31st August 2022), plus all children in primary school (reception class to school year 6) and secondary school years 7 to 11, as part of the routine NHS childhood vaccination programme

Find out more about who should have the flu vaccine.

How effective is the flu vaccine?

Flu vaccine is one of the best ways to protect against flu.

Every year the World Health Organization (WHO) predict what strains of flu will be circulating the following winter. Most years it is well matched and there is good protection.

Protection against this unpredictable virus is important as it can cause unpleasant illness and sometimes severe illness and even death, this is most likely among at-risk groups, including older people, pregnant women and those with an underlying health condition.

A flu vaccine won't stop all flu viruses and the level of protection may vary between years, and between people, so it's not a 100% guarantee that you'll be flu-free, but if you do get flu after vaccination it's likely to be milder and shorter-lived than it would otherwise have been.

It’s important to have the vaccine every year as over time, the protection from flu decreases and flu strains often change. So new flu vaccines are produced each year, and eligible people are advised to have the flu vaccine every year for best protection.

Flu vaccine side effects

Serious side effects from flu vaccines are very rare.  Read more about the side effects of the flu vaccine.

A mild fever following a flu vaccine is a common and expected reaction, isolation and COVID-19 testing is not usually required unless COVID-19 is suspected. Any fever after vaccination should be monitored and if you are concerned about your health at any time please seek advice from your GP or NHS 111 Wales. 

When to have a flu vaccine

The best time to have a flu vaccine is before flu starts to circulate. Ideally this is in the autumn, from the beginning of October, but don't worry if you've missed it, you can still have the vaccine later in winter if there are stocks left. Ask at your GP surgery or community pharmacy.

The flu vaccine for 2022/23

Each year, the flu viruses that are most likely to circulate and cause health problems are identified in advance and vaccines are made to match them as closely as possible. The vaccines are recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). Most flu vaccines contain 4 strains of the virus.

There are a number of different flu vaccines available again this season. With some working better than others in different age groups, they are broadly recommended by age and it is important to get a flu vaccine that is right for your age. Your doctor, nurse or pharmacist can advise on this.

Is there anyone who shouldn't have a flu vaccine?

Most people can have a flu vaccine, read more about who shouldn't have the flu vaccine.

You can find out more by reading the answers to the most common questions that people have about the flu

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Last Updated: 17/02/2022 16:03:08
The information on this page has been adapted by NHS Wales from original content supplied by NHS UK NHS website