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.
This year three types of flu vaccine will be used in the 2019/2020 flu programme. This will benefit patients by ensuring that they have the most suitable vaccine that gives them the best protection against flu.
In 2020/21 the following people are elligible for a flu vaccination. It is recommended that you have a flu jab if you are:
- adults aged 65 years and over
- adults aged 18 years to less than 65 years of age who are at an increased risk of flu because of a long term condition.
- are pregnant (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)
- children aged 6 months to 2 years who are at an increased risk from flu because of a long term condition.
- children aged 2 years (before 31st August 2019) to 3 years of age - see below.
- children of school age from reception class to year 6 - see below.
- children and young people less than 18 years of age who have a long term medical condition can be offered a nasal spray.
- adults aged >50-64 years
- households of those on the shielding patient list
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.
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.
Those children aged two years (before 31st August 2019) and three years of age are eligible for the flu vaccination as part of the NHS childhood vaccination programme through their GP surgery.
Children of school years reception class through to year 6 (Primary school Age 4 to 10 years of age) will be offered flu vaccine via the school age immunisation service.
Children and young people less than 18 years of age who have a long term medical condition can be offered a nasal spray.
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.