The NHS flu vaccine is offered every year to help protect you from getting seriously ill with the flu in the season of coughs and sniffles.
You’ll just need to meet certain requirements to get the free vaccine, and some might be able to get one earlier than others.
So, if you’re keen to get jabbed to help you stay fit and healthy this autumn and winter, here’s what you need to know.
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Why is a flu vaccine important
First of all, if you’re not really sure what the point of a flu vaccine is, as it’s just a more unpleasant but harmless ‘cold’ after all (wrong), here’s a reminder of why it’s necessary to protect yourself.
The NHS outlines they are important because:
While no one enjoys the flu, it can be dangerous and even life-threatening for some, especially those with health conditions.
It’s expected more people will get the flu this winter due to fewer of us building up natural immunity during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The flu vaccine will be offered for free from mid-October to those aged 50 years-old and over, including those who will be 50 by 31 March 2023, to allow the most at-risk groups to get it first.
Who can get the flu vaccine
The official list of who can get the flu vaccine for free on the NHS includes adults who:
are 65 and over (including those who will be 65 by 31 March 2023)
have certain health conditions
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
are frontline health workers
are social care workers who cannot get the vaccine through an occupational health scheme at work
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When is the flu vaccine rolled out
NHS England announced on 5 September that the NHS will be rolling out the flu vaccine and encouraging eligible people to take up the offer if possible.
The flu vaccine will be offered for free from mid-October to those aged 50 years old and over, including those who will be 50 by 31 March 2023, to allow the most at-risk groups to get it first.
However, if you’re in this age group and have a long-term health condition that puts you at risk of flu, you don’t have to wait until this date.
The recommended time to get your flu vaccine is in the autumn or early winter before the expected spread of flu. But don’t worry, if you don’t get round to it, you can still get your vaccine at a later point.
Flu vaccine for serious long-term health conditions
The flu vaccine is also offered for free for anyone with the below conditions:
respiratory conditions, like asthma
heart conditions, like coronary heart disease
being very overweight
chronic kidney disease
liver disease, like hepatitis
some neurological conditions, like Parkinson’s disease
a learning disability
problems with your sleep, like sickle cell disease
a weakened immune system as a result of certain conditions
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For more information see the full list of conditions here and talk to your doctor if you have a long-term illness you can’t spot, and they can determine whether you are at risk of serious problems from flu. If you are, you should be offered the jab.
If you’re eligible for a free flu vaccine, book the appointment at your GP surgery, a pharmacy that offers it or maternity services, if you’re pregnant. While you might also receive an invitation to get the vaccination, you don’t have to wait for this before booking your appointment.
You might also have to consider availability, as surgeries and pharmacies get the flu vaccine in batches throughout the flu season, so if you’re struggling to get an appointment, ask if you can book one in for when they’ll have some stocked up.
Some people are eligible for the flu vaccine and COVID-19 booster vaccines, and if you are offered both, it’s safe to have them at the same time.
For more information on who can have the flu vaccine, including pregnant people, frontline health and social care workers, who shouldn’t have it, how effective it is and possible side effects see the NHS website page on flu vaccines.
For information on the vaccine for children see the NHS website page on children’s flu vaccines.
Find a pharmacy that offers NHS flu vaccination here.
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