‘Just the Flu?’ Protect yourself and those around you with the free flu vaccination

Each year the flu kills on average 11,000 people and hospitalises thousands more. This year it’s more important than ever for people at risk to get their free flu vaccination. 

By having the flu vaccination, you will help protect yourself and others from what can be a severe, and sometimes fatal, illness which could lead to a hospital treatment.

This winter, many more people are eligible to have the free flu vaccination

If you are 50 and over (including those who’ll be 50 by 31 March 2021), are pregnant, have a long-term health condition, or you’re in a shielding household, speak to your GP or pharmacist to get a free flu vaccine. 

You can book online with your local pharmacist at myvaccinations.co.uk

Children aged 2-3 can get a free nasal spray at their GP. 

School aged children up to year 7 will be offered the vaccine at school – if you have an eligible child, please make sure they get it to help stop the spread of flu.

The flu spreads from person to person – even amongst those not showing symptoms. The vaccine is the best protection for you and those around you. Find out more.

See below for a full list of those eligible for the vaccine. If you are eligible for a free vaccination, your GP practice will contact you directly by letter or text to arrange it.

Useful links and resources

For the public:

For GPs:

‘Get Your Flu Jab’ – watch this video playlist to hear from South East London community leaders

Frequently asked questions

Are you considering not getting the flu vaccine this year? Or is there something about it that concerns you? Read below for more information on why it’s good to get vaccinated, and how to find out more.

You should have the flu vaccine if you: 

  • are 50 and over (including those who’ll be 50 by 31 March 2021)
  • are pregnant 
  • are an adult or child with certain conditions
  • live with someone on the shielded patient list
  • are aged 50-64 (but please note that vaccinations will be given later in the year for this group)
  • are living in a care home or other long-stay facility
  • receive a carer’s allowance, or you’re the main carer for an elderly or disabled person
  • are aged 2-3
  • are in primary school, or the first year of secondary school (Year 7)
  • are a frontline health and social care worker.

See more information here

The flu vaccination is safe and effective and must be given annually. It cannot give you the flu. It does not protect you from COVID-19 or seasonal coughs and colds, but it does give protection against the strains of flu virus that will be circulating this year. Adults usually receive the flu vaccination in injection form, and children usually receive a nasal spray.

We expect that the flu vaccination will be available from autumn 2020 onwards. You will be invited to book a vaccination appointment at around this time, but please contact your GP practice if not. It’s important that you have your vaccination as soon as possible.

Many people will receive their flu vaccination at a GP surgery as usual. Others may go to a pharmacy or another location in their community. School-aged children will receive their vaccination from a trained health professional at school or in their community. Health professionals will also vaccinate care home staff and residents on-site.

The NHS is doing everything it can to make sure that vaccinations are given in safe environments. All possible precautions will be taken to make sure you, and staff, are protected. If you have COVID-19 symptoms, do not attend your vaccination appointment but instead self-isolate and book a coronavirus test at nhs.uk/coronavirus or by calling119. You can rebook your flu vaccination appointment at a later date.

The flu virus and COVID-19 have symptoms which overlap, such a high temperature or persistent cough. It may be difficult to tell which virus you have. For this reason, it’s really important that you have a flu vaccination if you are eligible, and that you continue to follow the guidance on self-isolation and testing at nhs.uk/coronavirus if you have any of the symptoms of COVID-19.

No, the vaccine contains an inactivated virus which cannot give you flu.

Only one in a million people get serious side effects. Mild side effects such as soreness around the injection site and aching muscles are more common, but these are far less serious than the effects of contracting flu.

For more information on flu vaccine side effects, see here.

Flu is a very serious illness which kills 11,000 people a year and hospitalises many more. It can lead to severe complications including pneumonia and organ failure.

The flu virus mutates constantly, and the vaccine is updated every year to counter the latest strains so it is important to get vaccine

Flu can cause serious illness or death in healthy people. Getting vaccinated reduces your chance of catching flu by 40-60%.

The flu vaccine is safe at any stage of pregnancy, and is recommended for all pregnant women as they face a higher risk of developing complications from the flu.

This year eligible Londoners will be able to book their flu vaccine online with their local pharmacist at my vaccinations.co.uk. Londoners are also able to walk into pharmacies and get the vaccine.

No one who is eligible for a flu jab should be turned down.

It might be because you are not currently eligible, or the GP is out of stock of the particular vaccine you need.

If the GP is out of stock, then ask them to let you know when it will be next available. The people eligible for the free flu vaccination this year include:

  • 65s and over (including those who’ll be 65 by 31 March 2021);
  • People with certain long term health conditions;
  • Pregnant women;
  • People living in a long-stay residential care;
  • Those in receipt of a carer’s allowance, or are the main carer for an older or disabled person who may be at risk if the carer gets sick;
  • People living with someone who’s at high risk from coronavirus (on the NHS shielded patient list)
  • Frontline health or social care workers

If you are housebound, let your GP know and they can arrange to do your vaccine at your home.

No, but if you get the flu and coronavirus at the same time, research shows you’re more likely to be seriously ill.

The choice is yours. GPs and pharmacists will vaccinate people eligible for a free flu jab, but you can pay for a vaccination at a pharmacy if you’re not eligible for a free one.

The main family carer and/or paid support worker are entitled to a free flu vaccination.

No. Vaccinations have to be thoroughly tested for safety before they’re made available.

They do not cause autism – studies have found no evidence of a link between the MMR.

They do not overload or weaken the immune system – it’s safe to give children several vaccines at a time and this reduces the amount of injections they need.

They do not contain mercury.

They do not cause allergies or any other conditions – all the current evidence tells us that vaccinating is safer than not vaccinating.

You can read how vaccines work by visiting the NHS website.

The flu vaccine gives the best protection against flu.Flu vaccines help protect against the main types of flu viruses, although there’s still a chance you might get flu.

If you do get the flu after vaccination, it’s likely to be milder and not last as long.

Having the flu vaccine will also stop you spreading flu to other people who may be more at risk of serious problems from flu.

It can take 10 to 14 days for the flu vaccine to work.

Ingredients for each flu vaccine may be different.

There are several types of injected flu vaccine. None of them contains live viruses so they are called inactivated vaccines.

If you’re eligible for the flu vaccine on the NHS, you’ll be offered one that’s most effective for you, depending on your age:

  • adults aged 18 to 64 – there are different types, including low-egg and egg-free ones
  • adults aged 65 and over – the most common one contains an extra ingredient to help your immune system make a stronger response to the vaccine

Talk to a GP, practice nurse or pharmacist for more information about these vaccines.

All the ingredients for the nasal spray are listed here in this patient leaflet.

The nasal spray which is administered free in school for children aged 2 to 11 does contain a little bit of gelatine. Some religious groups may be concerned about using vaccines containing gelatine from pigs.

The London Beth Din, which decides what is/isn’t Kosher for the majority of observant Jewish people in the country, says that: “…there is no kashrut issue with the nasal spray because it is taken through the nose.

There is more of a divergence of opinion within the Muslim community.

However, if your child is at high risk from one or more medical conditions or treatments, and cannot have the nasal spray, please speak to your GP about having an alternative flu vaccination by injection.

For more information, please see this government link.

Yes you do, but you don’t need a home address or any form of identification to register at a GP. That includes, refugees and asylum seekers who are eligible for primary care.

And if you don’t speak English, you’re entitled to a free interpreter for your vaccination appointment.

Ask at the GP when you register.

If you need help, this NHS link has lots of handy advice on how to register at a GP.

It is best to have the vaccine before the flu really starts to circulate, which is usually from December onwards.

But, if it is later in the season than this, it is still worth having.