Who should have the flu jab?
For most people, flu is an unpleasant illness, but it's not serious. If you are otherwise healthy, you will usually recover from flu within a week. However, certain people are more likely to develop potentially serious complications of flu, such as bronchitis and pneumonia. These people are advised to have a flu jab each year.
People who should have a flu jab
You are eligible to receive a free flu jab if you:
- are 65 years of age or over
- are pregnant
- have certain medical conditions
- are very overweight
- are living in a long-stay residential care home or other long-stay care facility
- receive a carer's allowance, or you are the main carer for an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if you fall ill
- are a front-line health and social care worker. It is your employer's responsibility to arrange vaccination for you
Over-65s and the flu jab
You are eligible for the flu vaccine this year (2015-16) if you are aged 65 and over on March 31 2016 – that is, you were born on or before March 31 1951. So, if you are currently 64 but will be 65 on March 31 2016, you do qualify.
Pregnant women and the flu jab
If you're pregnant, you're advised to have the injectable flu vaccine, regardless of the stage of pregnancy you've reached. That's because there's strong evidence to suggest pregnant women have an increased risk of developing complications if they get flu.
- If you're pregnant, you will benefit from the flu vaccine because:
- it reduces your chance of getting serious complications of flu, such as pneumonia, particularly in the later stages of pregnancy
- it reduces your risk of having a miscarriage, or your baby being born prematurely or with a low birth weight because of the flu
- it will help protect your baby as they will continue to have some immunity to flu for the first few months of their life
- It's safe to have the flu vaccine at any stage of pregnancy from conception onwards. The vaccine doesn't carry any risks for you or your baby. Talk to your GP or midwife if you are unsure about the vaccination.
Flu jab for people with medical conditions
The injected flu vaccine is offered free of charge on the NHS to anyone with a serious long-term health condition. That includes these types of illnesses:
- chronic (long-term) respiratory diseases, such as asthma (which requires an inhaled or tablet steroid treatment, or has led to hospital admission in the past), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or bronchitis
- chronic heart disease, such as heart failure
- chronic kidney disease
- chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis
- chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson's disease or motor neurone disease
- problems with your spleen – for example, sickle cell disease or if you have had your spleen removed
- a weakened immune system as the result of conditions such as HIV and AIDS, or medication such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy
This list of conditions isn't definitive. It's always an issue of clinical judgement. Your GP can assess you individually to take into account the risk of flu exacerbating any underlying illness you may have, as well as your risk of serious illness from flu itself. The vaccine should always be offered in such cases, even if you are not technically in one of the risk groups above.
If you live with someone who has a weakened immune system, you may also be advised to have a flu vaccine. Speak to your GP or pharmacist about this.
Flu vaccine for children
The flu vaccine is recommended for:
- children over the age of six months with a long-term health condition
- healthy children aged two, three and four plus children in school years one and two.
- Children aged between six months and two years of age who are eligible for the flu vaccine should have the flu jab.
- Children eligible for the flu vaccine aged between two and 18 will usually have the flu vaccine nasal spray.
Read about who should have the children's flu vaccine.
Flu jab for health and social care workers
Outbreaks of flu can occur in health and social care settings, and, because flu is so contagious, staff, patients and residents are all at risk of infection.
If you're a front-line health and social care worker, you are eligible for an NHS flu jab to protect yourself, your colleagues and other members of the community.
It is your employer's responsibility to arrange vaccination for you. So, if you are an NHS-employed front-line healthcare worker, the NHS will pay for your vaccination. If you are a social care worker, your employer – for example, your local authority – will pay for vaccination. In the case of health and social care workers employed by private companies, those companies will arrange and pay for the vaccinations.
Flu jab for carers
If you care for someone who is elderly or disabled, speak to your GP or pharmacist about having a flu jab along with the person you care for.
Read more about the flu jab for carers on the Carers UK website.
This NHS leaflet gives information about the flu vaccination 2015-16 aimed at carers of and people with a learning disability.