The flu vaccine is a safe and effective vaccine. 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 pharmacist.
Who can get a free flu vaccine
You can get a free flu vaccine if you are:
- aged 65 years or older
- aged 2 to 17 years
- a healthcare worker
- living in a nursing home or other long-term care facility
- in regular contact with pigs, poultry or waterfowl
People with these conditions can also 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
- Down syndrome
- morbid obesity, which means a body mass index (BMI) over 40
- immunosuppression due to disease or treatment (including asplenia or hyposplenism, and all cancer patients)
- children with a moderate to severe neurodevelopmental disorder such as cerebral palsy
- children on long-term aspirin therapy
- those with any condition that can compromise respiratory function, like spinal cord injury, seizure disorder or other neuromuscular disorder, especially those attending special schools or day centres
If you are a carer or a household contact of a person with one of these conditions, you can also get a free flu vaccine.
Free flu vaccines will be offered to carers or household contacts of people who have:
- have an underlying chronic health condition as listed above
- Down syndrome
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 household contacts of:
- people aged 65 years and older, who do not also have a chronic health condition
- pregnant women
- children aged 2 to 17 years
- healthcare workers
If you cannot get a free flu vaccine
If you cannot get a free flu vaccine, you can still get it at a pharmacy or GP. But you will need to pay for it.
Children and young people aged between 2 and 17 years can get the nasal flu vaccine for free.
How it's given
For adults, the flu vaccine is given in your arm.
Children get the Fluenz Tetra vaccine through their nose as a nasal spray.
When it starts to work
It takes 2 weeks for the vaccine to work. It should protect you for the whole flu season.
After the vaccine, you may have some mild side effects.
These may include:
- soreness, redness or swelling where you got the injection
- fever (high temperature - 38 degrees Celsius or above)
- mild sweating and shivering
- feeling tired
If you feel any of these side effects, rest and paracetamol can help.
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. But you are far more likely to get Guillain-Barré syndrome from having the flu than from the flu vaccine.