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Getting the flu vaccine

The flu vaccine is safe and effective. It helps to protect you from flu. The best time to get the flu vaccine is before the flu season starts.

It's available from October to April each year.

Where to get the flu vaccine

You can get a flu vaccine from your GP surgery or pharmacy when it is available.

You can get the flu vaccine where you live if you:

  • live in a nursing home
  • are housebound

How it's given

For adults, the flu vaccine is given as an injection into your arm.

Children get the flu vaccine as a spray into their nose (nasal spray).

Who can get a free flu vaccine

You can get a free flu vaccine if you are:

  • age 65 and older
  • age 2 to 17
  • a healthcare worker
  • pregnant
  • living in a nursing home or other long-term care facility
  • in regular contact with pigs, poultry or waterfowl
  • someone with a health condition that puts you at higher risk of flu (age 6 months and older)
  • living with someone who has a health condition that puts them at higher risk of flu
  • a carer for someone who has a health condition that puts them at higher risk of flu
Health conditions that put you at higher risk of flu

People with these conditions can get a free flu vaccine:

  • chronic heart disease, including acute coronary syndrome
  • chronic liver disease
  • chronic kidney failure
  • chronic respiratory disease, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cystic fibrosis, moderate or severe asthma, or bronchopulmonary dysplasia
  • chronic neurological disease including multiple sclerosis, hereditary and degenerative disorders of the central nervous system
  • diabetes
  • Down syndrome
  • haemoglobinopathies
  • a body mass index (BMI) over 40
  • immunosuppression due to disease or treatment (including asplenia or hyposplenism, and cancer)
  • children with a moderate to severe neurodevelopmental disorder such as cerebral palsy
  • children on long-term aspirin therapy
  • any condition that can compromise respiratory function, like spinal cord injury, seizure disorder or other neuromuscular disorder, especially people also attending special schools or day centres
Who is a carer?

A carer is someone who provides an ongoing, significant level of care to someone who is in need of care in the home due to illness, disability or frailty.

Free flu vaccines will not be offered to people who live with:

  • people age 65 and older, who do not also have a chronic health condition
  • pregnant women
  • children age 2 to 17
  • healthcare workers
  • carers

If you cannot get a free flu vaccine

If you cannot get a free flu vaccine, you can still get one at a pharmacy or GP surgery. But you will need to pay for it.

When the flu vaccine starts to work

It takes 2 weeks for the vaccine to work. It should protect you for the whole flu season.

Side effects

After the vaccine, you may have some mild side effects.

These may include:

If you have any of these side effects, rest and take paracetamol.

Serious side effects

Serious side effects such as a severe allergic reaction are rare.

In very rare cases Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) has been reported. GBS is a condition that affects the nerves in the body. It causes nerve inflammation and can cause pain, numbness, muscle weakness and difficulty walking. You are far more likely to get Guillain-Barré syndrome from having the flu than from the flu vaccine.

Report harmful side effects to the Health Products Regulatory Authority -

Flu vaccine and COVID-19 booster

The flu vaccine and the COVID-19 booster are 2 separate vaccines.

You can get can both at the same time if you are due a COVID-19 booster dose.

COVID-19 booster dose


All HSE immunisation programmes follow the recommendations of the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC).

Page last reviewed: 30 November 2023
Next review due: 6 September 2026