Vaccinations

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 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.

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 a 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)
  • those who are immunosuppressed and their household contacts
  • everyone aged 50 and over (on 31st March 2022)
  • Carers  
  • Care home staff with regular client contact.
  • People working as a carer giving care in people’s homes

Children aged 2 to 16 years of age (this is their age on 31 August 2021) should have a flu vaccine. This and includes school pupils from reception to year 11.  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, 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?

Annual nasal spray flu vaccine will be offered to all children aged two and three years (age on 31st August 2021), 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.

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 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.

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 Direct Wales on 0845 46 47 or NHS 111 Wales if available in your area.

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 the end of 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.

Can I get the flu vaccine privately?

The flu vaccine for adults is available to buy from many community pharmacies and supermarkets and usually costs from £6.

Why is it recommended that healthcare workers are vaccinated?

Flu vaccination is strongly recommended for all frontline health care workers. Flu vaccination helps reduce the chance of flu spreading, so having a flu vaccine helps protect the healthcare worker and also reduces the chances of them passing flu on to, or getting flu from, their patients. Your employer should help you get your vaccine. Hospitals 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.

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.

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

Flu vaccination is strongly recommended for care home staff with regular contact. Flu vaccination helps reduce the chance of flu spreading, so helps protect the care home staff and also reduces the chances of them passing flu on to, or getting flu from, the care home residents. You can get you vaccine from the community pharmacy. Care homes experience outbreaks of flu every year, and they can be serious as residents are often extremely vulnerable to complications. It also helps the social care sector keep running effectively during the winter, when GP surgeries and hospital services are particularly busy.

Why is it recommended that carers have a flu vaccine?

Flu vaccination is strongly recommended for care home staff with regular contact. Flu vaccination helps reduce the chance of flu spreading, so helps protect the care home staff and also reduces the chances of them passing flu on to, or getting flu from, the care home residents. You can get you vaccine from the community pharmacy. Care homes experience outbreaks of flu almost every year, and they can be serious as residents are often extremely vulnerable to complications. It also helps the social care sector 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 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.

For more information visit https://phw.nhs.wales/fluvaccine

Leaflets

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Last Updated: 11/11/2019 13:09:39
The information on this page has been adapted by NHS Wales from original content supplied by NHS UK NHS website nhs.uk