Flu is an unpredictable virus that can cause mild illness in most people.It can cause severe illness and even death among vulnerable groups including older people, pregnant women and people with an underlying health condition.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 vaccine each year.
For otherwise healthy people flu can be very unpleasant, however most people will recover from flu within a week or two.
Who should have the vaccine
The injected flu vaccine is offered free of charge on the NHS to people who are at risk. This is to help protect them against catching flu and developing serious complications.
You should have the flu vaccine if you:
- are 65 years of age or over
- are pregnant
- have certain medical conditions
- 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
Flu vaccine for children
The flu vaccine is free on the NHS for:
- children over the age of 6 months with a long-term health condition
- children aged 2 and 3 on August 31 2018 – that is, born between September 1 2014 and August 31 2016
- children in reception class and school years 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5
Children aged between 6 months and 2 years of age who are eligible for the flu vaccine will receive an injected flu vaccine.
Children eligible for the flu vaccine aged between 2 and 17 will usually have the flu vaccine nasal spray.
65s and over and the flu vaccine
You are eligible for the flu vaccine this year (2018/19) if you are aged 65 and over on March 31 2019 – that is, you were born on or before March 31 1954. So, if you are currently 64 but will be 65 on March 31 2019, you do qualify.
Pregnant women and the flu vaccine
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 birthweight because of 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. Talk to your GP, midwife or pharmacist if you want more information.
Read more about the flu vaccine in pregnancy.
Flu vaccine 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, including:
- 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), emphysema 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, motor neurone disease or multiple sclerosis (MS)
- 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
- being seriously overweight (BMI of 40 or above)
This list of conditions isn’t definitive. It’s always an issue of clinical judgement.
Your GP can assess you to take into account the risk of flu making any underlying illness you may have worse, as well as your risk of serious illness from flu itself.
Please contact the reception staff in September for details of the vaccination dates.