Flu vaccination

Flu vaccination

The flu vaccine is a safe and effective vaccine. It's offered every year on the NHS to help protect people at risk of getting seriously ill from flu.

Flu vaccination programme 2022-23

The NHS is delivering a safe and effective annual flu vaccination programme this autumn as it’s the best protection against flu and its complications.

Flu and COVID-19 can make some people seriously ill and it’s more important than ever to get the flu vaccine if you're eligible to, particularly as it is expected that this will be the first winter when COVID-19 will co-circulate alongside flu (the seasonal influenza virus).

You can discover detailed information regarding coronavirus, including the latest Covid-19 FAQs, on the Covid-19 vaccination programme page.

You'll find lots of useful flu vaccine resources and FAQs on this page below and on NHS.UK.

Information on the Surrey Carers Flu Jab Voucher

If you are an unpaid carer looking after someone who is elderly or disabled, you can ask for a flu jab at your GP practice or take a Surrey Carers Flu Jab Voucher to a pharmacy offering the free NHS flu vaccine. The vouchers provide the assurance that you are known to carers services here in Surrey and are therefore entitled to a free vaccination.

We are encouraging all unpaid carers in Surrey to take up the offer of a free flu vaccination as a priority, not only to protect themselves and the people they care for, but to help reduce hospitalisations during a time that we expect will be especially busy for the NHS and social care.

Surrey Carers Flu Jab Vouchers are available through all our Carers Support Services:

Find out more about the Surrey Carers Flu Voucher at Action for Carers Surrey:

Action for Carers

Flu vaccine frequently asked questions

Flu is very infectious and easily spread to other people from coughs and sneezes, which can live on hands and surfaces for 24 hours.

To reduce the risk of spreading flu wash your hands often with warm water and soap, use tissues to trap germs when you cough or sneeze and bin used tissues as quickly as possible.

In addition to our resources and FAQs, check NHS.UK for detailed information about flu. Healthy Surrey also have lots of information on their Staying Safe and Well in Winter webpage.

A series of FAQs dedicated to the flu vaccination programme can be found below.

In the following section, you will find information on:

Who can get a flu vaccine?

The flu vaccine is free for older people, pregnant women, most children and those with certain underlying medical conditions. The expanded influenza vaccination programme will continue this year (2022 to 2023).

This means that the offer of a free vaccine to those aged 50 years and over will be extended to healthy 50 to 64-year-olds later in the season.

School-aged children will be offered immunisation through the school age immunisation service. Secondary school children will be offered vaccination as far as it is possible to do so, with primary schools and lower years 7, 8 and 9 prioritised.

Who is eligible to get a free flu vaccine?

Those eligible for the free flu vaccination on the NHS this year (2022 to 2023) are:

  • all children aged 2 until they reach primary school
  • all primary school aged children (from Reception to Year 6) and secondary school-aged children focusing on Years 7, 8 and 9 
  • those aged 6 months of age upwards in a clinical risk group
  • those 65 and over (including those who will be 65 by 31 March 2023)
  • those who have certain health conditions
  • pregnant women
  • those who are in long-stay residential care
  • are receiving a carer's allowance, or are the main carer for an older or disabled person who may be at risk if you get sick
  • those 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
  • those who are frontline health workers
  • those who are social care workers who cannot get the vaccine through an occupational health scheme at work

Starting from mid-October, people aged 50 years old or over (including those who will be 50 years old by 31 March 2023) can have a free NHS flu vaccine. This is so at-risk groups can be offered vaccination first.

If you’re in this age group and have a long-term health condition that puts you at risk from flu, you do not have to wait until mid-October.

If you’re an unpaid carer, register as a carer with you GP as this will help you to receive your flu vaccine within the surgery and access many other benefits the practices may have on offer for unpaid carers.

Where and how can I get my free flu vaccination?

If you're eligible for a free flu vaccination, you can have it at:

  • your GP surgery
  • a local pharmacy offering the service
  • your midwifery service if they offer it for pregnant women
  • at school (for school age children).

It is best to have the flu vaccination in the autumn or early winter before any outbreaks of flu. Remember that you need it every year, so don’t assume you are protected because you had one last year.

  • All primary school aged children and secondary school-aged children focusing on Years 7, 8 and 9 will be offered their flu vaccination in school. Any remaining vaccine will be offered to years 10 and 11, subject to vaccine availability and offered in school.
  • Children aged 6 months to 2 years with a long-term condition will receive their flu vaccination at their GP surgery.
  • Children aged 2 years until child starts primary school will receive their flu vaccination at their GP Surgery
  • Those from reception to Year 11, with a long-term condition, will be offered the flu vaccine either at school or at their GP surgery.
  • For pregnant women, in some areas, midwives can give the flu vaccine at the antenatal clinic, in others, you will need an appointment at a GP surgery.

Getting your free flu vaccination from your GP

For all patients in Surrey Downs, Guildford and Waverley, and North West Surrey the flu vaccination programme is being coordinated by your GP practice. Find out where your practice will be offering your Flu Jab in East Surrey.

Find a pharmacy that offers the NHS flu vaccine

If you wish to have your flu jab sooner please do contact a pharmacy near you who may be able to assist. Visit the NHS website to find a pharmacy offering the NHS flu vaccine.

The flu vaccine is also available privately in pharmacies and some supermarkets to adults who are not eligible for an NHS jab.

I'm not eligible for a free flu vaccine, can I still get a vaccine?

Yes of course! If you would like to have a flu vaccine you can pay to have one at your local pharmacy.

Can I have a flu vaccine and a Covid-19 vaccine?

Yes, the Covid-19 vaccine does not protect you from the flu, and vice versa. If you are eligible for both vaccines you should have them both.

Can I have my flu vaccine and Covid-19 booster at the same time?

Yes, if you are eligible to receive both vaccines you may therefore be offered both jabs in the same appointment. However, it is important that you do not delay receiving either vaccine if you’re unable to get them at the same time. It is vital that you are fully protected as soon as possible.

Will the flu vaccine protect me against Covid-19?

Getting a flu vaccine will not protect against Covid-19, however, it can help keep you safe from getting the flu, which in turn will help you stay healthy and well.

I’ve recently had Covid-19, can I still have my flu vaccine?

If you’ve had COVID-19, it’s still safe to have the flu vaccine, however you may wish to reschedule your appointment if you are currently experiencing a high temperature or acute illness on the day of the appointment. It will still be effective at helping to prevent flu.

For advice and information about the flu vaccination, visit the NHS website.

I have coronavirus symptoms, should I still come in for a flu vaccine?

If you have any of the Covid-19 symptoms, then please do not attend your flu vaccination appointment. This can be rescheduled. Please see your booking details for how to amend your appointment or contact your local pharmacy or GP where your appointment has been booked.

When should you get your flu vaccine?

The vaccine is available from September although you may be offered the vaccine later in the season depending on criteria and availability.

The best time to have a flu vaccine is in the autumn, before flu starts circulating. But even if it's later, it's always worth getting vaccinated.

I had the flu vaccination last year. Do I need to have it again?

Yes. The viruses that cause flu can change every year, which means the flu (and the vaccine) this year may be different from last year.

I’ve already had the flu virus this autumn, do I need the flu vaccine?

It’s still important to get your flu vaccine even if you have had flu this autumn. It can help protect you from getting it again.

Who should not have the flu vaccine?

Most adults can have the flu vaccine, but you should avoid it if you have had a serious allergic reaction to a flu vaccine in the past.

You may be at risk of an allergic reaction to the flu vaccine injection if you have an egg allergy. This is because some flu vaccines are made using eggs.

Ask a GP or pharmacist for a low-egg or egg-free vaccine.

If you're ill with a high temperature, it's best to wait until you're better before having the flu vaccine.

Does the flu vaccine work and are there any side effects?

Flu vaccines are very safe. All adult flu vaccines are given by injection into the muscle of the upper arm.

Most side effects are mild and only last for a day or so, such as:

  • slightly raised temperature.
  • muscle aches.
  • sore arm where the needle went in – this is more likely to happen with the vaccine for people aged 65 and over.

Try these tips to help reduce the discomfort:

  • continue to move your arm regularly.
  • take a painkiller, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen – some people, including those who are pregnant, should not take ibuprofen unless a doctor recommends it.

I’ve heard that the flu vaccination can give you flu. Is that true?

No. The flu vaccine that is given to adults is made from dead flu virus and cannot cause the infection. The flu vaccine that will be given to most children is a live vaccine, but the viruses in it have been weakened so they can not cause flu. You may get some side effects after the vaccination but these are quite mild like a slightly raised temperature or aching muscles for a couple of days or an ache in the arm where the injection was given. Other reactions are very rare.

How long does it take for the flu vaccine to become effective?

The flu vaccine will help prevent you getting the flu and is your best protection against the virus. It will not stop all flu viruses but if you do get flu after vaccination, it’s likely to be milder and shorter-lived than it would otherwise have been. It takes the immune response about two weeks to fully develop after vaccination.

How long will the flu vaccine protect me for?

The flu vaccine will provide protection for you for the upcoming flu season. People eligible for flu vaccination should have the vaccine each year.

Can flu be treated with antibiotics?

No unfortunately when you have flu, antibiotics will not help you feel better.

I am taking antibiotics, can I have the flu vaccine?

Yes, it's fine to have the flu vaccine while you're taking a course of antibiotics, provided you're not ill with a high temperature.

General questions about flu and the flu vaccine

Why get the flu vaccine?

The vaccine provides the best available protection against flu. It is not 100% effective but it will protect a significant number of people and reduce the severity of flu if you get it. It could also help your relatives or carers because you will not be passing the disease to them.

Do I need to wear a face covering or mask when I get my flu vaccine?

Yes, it is likely that you will need to have a mask on when you have your flu vaccine. You will be advised when you book.

The Muslim Council of Britain on the importance of vaccinations

Operation Vaccination is a campaign to increase awareness in Muslim communities about the importance of getting a flu vaccination this winter 2020-21. The MCB Operation Vaccination webpage has a range of information and resources.

The flu vaccine and pregnancy

It's recommended that all pregnant women have the flu vaccine, whatever stage of pregnancy they're at. It's free for pregnant women.

Why are pregnant women advised to have the flu vaccine?

A flu jab will help protect both you and your baby.

There is good evidence that pregnant women have a higher chance of developing complications if they get flu, particularly in the later stages of pregnancy.

One of the most common complications of flu is bronchitis, a chest infection that can become serious and develop into pneumonia.

If you have flu while you're pregnant, it could cause your baby to be born prematurely or have a low birthweight, and may even lead to stillbirth or death.

Is the flu vaccine safe in pregnancy?

Yes. Studies have shown that it's safe to have a flu vaccine during any stage of pregnancy, from the first few weeks up to your expected due date.

Women who have had a flu vaccine while pregnant also pass some protection on to their babies, which lasts for the first few months of their lives.

It's safe for women who are breastfeeding to have a flu vaccine if they're eligible (for example, because of a long-term health condition).

When should I have the flu jab?

The best time to have a flu vaccine is in the autumn, before flu starts circulating. If you've missed this time, you can be vaccinated later in the winter although it's best to get it earlier.

Do not worry if you find that you're pregnant later in the flu season – you can have the vaccine then if you have not already had it.

How do I get the flu vaccine?

Contact your midwife or GP surgery to find out where you can get a flu vaccine. It's a good idea to get vaccinated as soon as possible after the vaccine becomes available in September.

In some areas, you can get a flu vaccine at an antenatal clinic. In others, you'll need an appointment at a GP surgery or a pharmacy that offers the flu vaccine.

If I had the flu jab last year, do I need to have it again now?

Yes, because the viruses that cause flu change every year. This means the flu strains the vaccines are designed to prevent this year may be different from last year.

If you had the flu vaccine during the last flu season because you were pregnant (same pregnancy or a previous pregnancy), or because you're in a vulnerable group, you need to have it again this year.

Find out more about how the flu vaccine works.

Will the flu jab give me flu?

No. Flu jabs do not contain any live viruses, so cannot cause flu. Some people get a slightly raised temperature and aching muscles for a couple of days afterwards, and you may feel sore at the injection site.

Find out more about flu vaccine side effects.

Can I have the flu jab at the same time as the whooping cough vaccine?

Yes, you can have a flu vaccine at the same time as the whooping cough vaccine, but do not delay your flu jab so you can have both at the same time.

Pregnant women are at risk of severe illness from flu at any stage of pregnancy, so you need to have a flu vaccine as soon as possible.

The best time to get vaccinated against whooping cough is from 16 weeks up to 32 weeks of pregnancy. 

If you miss having the vaccine for any reason, you can still have it up until you go into labour.

Find out more about the whooping cough vaccine in pregnancy.

I'm pregnant and think I have flu. What should I do?

Talk to a GP as soon as possible. If you do have flu, there's a prescribed medicine you can take that might help, or reduce your risk of complications, but it needs to be taken very soon after symptoms appear.

Can I have the flu vaccine if I’m pregnant or breastfeeding?

You should have the flu vaccine if you're pregnant to help protect you and your baby. It's safe to have the flu vaccine at any stage of pregnancy from the first few weeks up to your expected due date. Women who have had the flu vaccine while pregnant also pass some protection on to their babies, which lasts for the first few months of their lives. It's safe for women who are breastfeeding to have the vaccine.

The flu vaccine - information for people with learning disabilities

Find easy read guides and videos for people with learning disabilities and their carers at GOV.UK about the importance of the flu vaccination for people with a learning disability and autistic people with certain health conditions.

They explain why it is important to have it every year, who is eligible for a free vaccine, and where to get the vaccine. It also explains why providers of the vaccine need to make reasonable adjustments.

Discover flu vaccination for children: leaflets and posters for parents and carers of preschool and primary school-aged children and young people in years 7 to 11. On this page you will also find a Braille version of this leaflet is available to order and a British Sign Language preschool and primary video with subtitles is available to download.

Short films about the importance of the flu vaccination for people with a learning disability:

  • Watch a short film that covers why it is important, who is eligible for a free vaccine, where you can get the vaccine and reasonable adjustments.
  • Watch a short film featuring Registered Learning Disability nurse Becky.

Short films about the importance of the flu vaccination for carers of people with a learning disability:

The flu vaccine and your child

The flu vaccine is offered free to:

  • children aged 2 or 3 years old (on 31 August before flu vaccinations start in the autumn)
  • all primary school-aged children (reception to year 6)
  • some secondary school-aged children
  • children with a health condition that puts them at greater risk from flu

If your child is aged between 6 months and 2 years and has a long-term health condition that makes them at higher risk from flu, they'll be offered a flu vaccine injection instead of the nasal spray.

This is because the nasal spray is not licensed for children under 2 years old.

The nasal spray vaccine offers the best protection for children aged 2 to 17 years. They'll be offered a flu vaccine injection if the nasal spray vaccine is not suitable for them. Injected flu vaccines are also safe and effective.

Further information on which children are eligible each year is available on NHS.UK.

See also flu vaccination for children: leaflets and posters from GOV.UK

How do school aged children get their flu vaccination?

The Children and Family Health Surrey Immunisation team is responsible for the planning and delivery of the school-age immunisation programmes in Surrey. The vaccination programmes are primarily carried out in schools, although they also offer clinics in other community settings for home-educated children and other children depending on their individual needs.

The team is made up of registered nurses and administrators. They cover all schools in Surrey, as well as any children who are home educated.

Has your child missed their school vaccination?

If your child has missed their vaccination at school, please contact your local immunisation team to book an appointment at a catch-up clinic.

Find contact details for your local immunisation team on the Children and Family Health Surrey Immunisations webpage.

Long term health conditions and the flu vaccine

If you’re in an at risk group you are eligible for a free flu vaccine.

The flu vaccine is offered free on the NHS to anyone with a serious long-term health condition, including:

Talk to your doctor if you have a long-term condition that is not in one of these groups. They should offer you the flu vaccine if they think you're at risk of serious problems if you get flu.