Flu (also known as influenza) is a highly infectious illness caused by the flu virus. It spreads rapidly through small droplets coughed or sneezed into the air by an infected person. For most people, flu is unpleasant but not serious. You will usually recover within a week.
Studies have shown that flu vaccines provide effective protection against the flu, although protection may not be complete and may vary between people. Protection from the vaccine gradually decreases and flu strains change over time. Therefore, new vaccines are made each year and people at risk of flu are encouraged to be vaccinated every year.
The flu vaccination is offered to people in at-risk groups. These people are at greater risk of developing serious complications if they catch flu, such as pregnant women and elderly people.
The flu vaccine is offered free to people who are at risk, to protect them from catching flu and developing serious complications.
In 2017/18 the following people are elligible for a flu vaccination. It is recommended that you have a flu jab if you:
- are aged 65 years and over
- are aged 6 months to under 65 in clinical risk groups (see below)
- are pregnant (see below)
- are aged two and three years old (but not aged less than two or aged four or over on 31st August 2017) (i.e. born on or after 1 September 2013 and on or before 31 August 2015). Children in school years one, two and three will be offered flu vaccine via the school age immunisation service - see below.
- are living in a long-stay residential care home or other long-stay care facility (not including prisons, young offender institutions or university halls of residence)
- are the main Carer for an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if you fall ill
- are a frontline health or social care worker (see below)
If you are the parent of a child who is over six months old and has a long-term condition on the list below, speak to your GP about the flu vaccine. Your child's condition may get worse if they catch flu.
It is recommended that all pregnant women should have the flu vaccine, whatever stage of pregnancy they're in.
This is because there is good evidence that pregnant women have an increased risk of developing complications if they get flu, particularly from the H1N1 strain.
Studies have shown that the flu vaccine can be safely and effectively given during any trimester of pregnancy. The vaccine does not carry risks for either the mother or baby. In fact, studies have shown that mothers who have had the vaccine while pregnant pass some protection to their babies, which lasts for the first few months of their lives.
People with medical conditions
The flu vaccine is offered free to anyone who is over six months of age and has one of the following medical conditions:
If you live with someone who has a weakened immune system, you may also be able to have a flu vaccine. Speak to your GP about this.
Frontline health or social care workers
Employers are responsible for ensuring that arrangements are in place for frontline healthcare staff to have the flu vaccine.
Outbreaks of flu can occur in health and social care settings, and staff, patients and residents are at risk of infection.
Frontline health and social care staff should protect themselves by having the flu vaccine to prevent the spread of flu to colleagues and other members of the community.
If you care for someone who is elderly or disabled, speak to your GP about getting vaccinated against seasonal flu. You should also ensure that the person you care for has the flu jab.
Those aged two and three (but not less than two or aged four or over on 31st August 2017) (i.e. born on or after 1 September 2013 and on or before 31 August 2015) are eligible for the flu vaccination as part of the NHS childhood vaccination programme. Children of school years one,two and three (i.e those aged four, five and six on 31st August 2017, rising to seven years old) will be offered flu vaccine via the school age immunisation service.
At risk children includes those who have a lorg-term health condition such asthma, and other respiratory diseases, liver, kidney and nuerological conditions including learning disabilities, even if well managed.