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Flu vaccine: FAQs

When am I at most risk from flu?

The highest risk of flu is in the winter. Flu circulates every winter and this means many people can get ill around the same time. It is impossible to predict how many cases of flu there will be each year, but 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. Having a flu vaccine if you are eligible is an important part of that protection.

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

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?

Flu vaccine is not recommended for everyone in the UK. People who are at increased risk of problems if they catch flu can have a free NHS flu vaccine to help protect them.

Who should have the flu vaccine? page provides information about who is eligible for a free annual flu vaccine on the NHS.

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, so that is why flu vaccination is available free to them.

By offering the flu vaccine to carers, domiciliary carers and frontline care home workers, this helps protect the individual and also helps prevent the spread of flu to the people they care for who may be at high risk of complications.

Making sure frontline health care workers get their flu vaccine is a good way to protect them, the NHS and also the people in their care.

Vaccinating children against flu 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 one of the 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 a flu vaccine?

Which children should have the flu vaccine? page provides information about who is eligible for a free annual flu vaccine on the NHS.

How long will 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 a 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.

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?

The flu vaccine cannot give you flu, but some people do feel a little unwell after having the vaccine, with a headache or aching muscles, this tends to be mild and last for a day or so at most.

If you are concerned about your health at any time please seek advice from your GP or NHS 111 Wales.

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)

Flu vaccines generally become available from September.

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.

If you have a fever, the vaccination may be delayed until you are better.

Can I get the flu vaccine privately?

The flu vaccine for adults is available to buy from many community pharmacies and supermarkets, costs vary.

Why is it recommended that healthcare workers, care home staff and carers are vaccinated?

Flu vaccination is strongly recommended for all frontline health care workers, care home staff and carers. Flu vaccination helps reduce the chance of flu spreading, so having a flu vaccine helps protect the person and also reduces the chances of them passing flu on to, or getting flu from, their patients, people they care for and care home residents. Your employer should help you get your vaccine. You can also get the vaccine from the community pharmacy.  Hospitals and care homes often experience outbreaks of flu which can be serious as patients are generally extremely vulnerable to complications. It also helps the NHS keep running effectively during the winter, when GP surgeries and hospital services are particularly busy.

See also Who should have the flu vaccine?

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 strongly 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.

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

If it’s flu you are probably not infectious after five days. Symptoms of flu can be similar to COVID-19, see here for the latest COVID-19 guidance

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Last Updated: 03/10/2023 10:53:09
The information on this page has been adapted by NHS Wales from original content supplied by NHS UK NHS website