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 2023-24
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.
You'll find lots of useful flu vaccine resources and FAQs on this page below and on NHS.UK.
Countdown is on to book flu and Covid-19 vaccinations online
The NHS’s national booking system, NHS App and 119 phone service will close for flu and covid vaccine bookings from 15 December, making 14 December the last day to make a booking.
After this date, it will still be possible for those eligible to book their vaccinations through local NHS vaccination services. However, there will be fewer covid appointments, and you may need to travel further.
People can continue booking the covid vaccine through local services until 31 January. After that, covid vaccinations will close, and people will be required to wait for a future seasonal campaign unless they develop a new health condition or start treatment that severely weakens the immune system, in which case a clinician may advise vaccination sooner.
After 15 December, people will still be able to get their free flu jab as they can now, by contacting their GP surgery or by finding a pharmacy that offers the vaccine if you're 18 or over.
The flu vaccine offer will close after 31 March. However, getting it as soon as possible is encouraged to ensure protection over the colder months when flu is often in greater circulation.
Information on the Surrey Carers flu vaccine programme
If you are an unpaid carer looking after someone who is ill, elderly, frail 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. These are available from October through to March.
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.
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.
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?
- Can I have a flu vaccine and a Covid-19 vaccine?
- When should you get your flu vaccine?
- Where and how can I get my free flu vaccine?
- Who should not have the flu vaccine?
- Does the flu vaccine work and are there any side effects?
- General questions about flu and the flu vaccine
- The flu vaccine and pregnancy
- The flu vaccine - information for people with learning disabilities
- The flu vaccine and your child
- Long term health conditions and the 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 (2023 to 2024).
School-aged children will be offered immunisation through the school age immunisation service.
Who is eligible to get a free flu vaccine?
Those eligible for the free flu vaccination on the NHS this year (2023 to 2024) are:
- those aged 65 years and over
- those aged 6 months to under 65 years in clinical risk groups (as defined by the Green Book, chapter 19 Influenza)
- pregnant women
- all children aged 2 or 3 years on 31 August 2023
- primary and secondary school aged children (Reception to Year 11)
- those in long-stay residential care homes (see GOV.UK site footnote 1)
- carers in receipt of carer’s allowance, or those who are the main carer of an elderly or disabled person
- close contacts of immunocompromised individuals
- frontline workers in a social care setting without an employer led occupational health scheme including those working for a registered residential care or nursing home, registered domiciliary care providers, voluntary managed hospice providers and those that are employed by those who receive direct payments (personal budgets) or Personal Health budgets, such as Personal Assistants
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.
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
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.
- 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
- respiratory conditions, such as asthma (needing steroid inhaler or tablets), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), including emphysema and bronchitis
- heart conditions, such as coronary heart disease or heart failure
- being very overweight – a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or above
- chronic kidney disease
- liver disease, such as hepatitis
- neurological conditions, such as Parkinson's disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), or cerebral palsy
- a learning disability
- problems with your spleen, for example, sickle cell disease, or if you have had your spleen removed
- a weakened immune system as the result of conditions such as HIV and AIDS, or taking medicines such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy
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.