Influenza (flu) is a very common and highly infectious disease caused by a virus. It is much more severe than the common cold and often results in two or three days in bed, leading to missed work and school days. This winter it is expected that many respiratory infections, including COVID-19 and flu, may be circulating at high levels.
If you are eligible for the free flu vaccine from the NHS, it is important to get it annually because viruses that cause flu change every year. This means the flu (and vaccine) in 2023 may be different from last year. While flu is unpleasant for most people, it can be very dangerous and even life threatening for some, particularly people with certain health conditions.
The flu vaccine is safe and effective. Like all vaccines used in the UK, it has been approved by the UK’s independent regulatory body for medicines and vaccines.
Flu vaccines for adults
This year, the NHS is providing free flu vaccines to people aged 65 and over (including those who will be 65 by 31 March 2024), those most at risk of getting seriously ill from flu including pregnant women, children aged 2 to 16 years, carers, close contacts of immunocompromised individuals, and front-line health and social care workers.
Please see the frequently asked questions below for more information or visit the NHS flu vaccine page
If you get flu and COVID-19 at the same time, research shows you’re more likely to be seriously ill. Getting vaccinated against flu and COVID-19 will provide protection for you, your family and those around you.
Some people may be eligible for both the flu and the COVID-19 booster vaccines. If you are offered both vaccines, it’s safe to have them at the same time. If you are not able to have both vaccines at the same time, please go ahead with the vaccine offered anyway, you can catch up with the other vaccine later.
Who can get a free NHS flu vaccine this autumn-winter?
You can get a free flu vaccine if you fall into one of the following groups:
aged 2 and 3 years on 31 August 2023
eligible school aged children (Reception to Year 11)
those aged 6 months to under 65 years in clinical risk groups
all those aged 65 years and over
those in long-stay residential care homes
carers, those in receipt of carer’s allowance or main carer of an older or disabled person
household contacts of immunocompromised individuals
frontline health and social care staff
How do I get my flu vaccination?
You can have your flu vaccine at:
your GP surgery
a pharmacy offering the service – if you’re aged 18 or over (find a pharmacy offering flu vaccinations on the NHS website
some maternity services if you’re pregnant
Sometimes, you might be offered the flu vaccine at a hospital appointment.
If you have a flu vaccine at any NHS service except your GP surgery, you do not have to tell the surgery to update your records. This will be done for you. If you’ve been given a flu vaccine privately, or through an occupational health scheme, you can tell your GP surgery if you would like it added to your NHS record.
How can children get their vaccine?
Please click through to the NHS website for details of where children’s vaccinations are provided. Most school aged children who are eligible for flu vaccine, will be vaccinated at school. Children aged 2 – 3 will usually be vaccinated at their local GP surgery.
Vaccinating children - child nasal spray flu vaccine
The children’s nasal spray flu vaccine is offered every year to children (aged 2 to 17 years old) to help protect them against flu. Flu can be a very unpleasant illness for children and can lead to serious problems, such as bronchitis and pneumonia.
Children aged 2 and 3 years will be given the vaccination at their general practice, usually by the practice nurse. School-aged children and young people will be offered the flu vaccine in school. For most children, the vaccine will be given as a spray in each nostril. This is a very quick and painless procedure.
The nasal spray vaccine contains small traces of pork gelatine. If this is not suitable, parents and guardians can speak to their child’s nurse or doctor about the non-porcine flu injection for children.
Is it safe to get the flu vaccine during pregnancy?
It is safe to have the flu and COVID-19 vaccines during any stage of pregnancy, from the first few weeks up to your expected due date.
Women who have the vaccines while pregnant also pass some protection on to their babies, which lasts for the first few months of their lives. It’s safe for women who are breastfeeding to have both vaccines if they are eligible. It’s also safe to have both the flu vaccine and the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time.
You can read more on the NHS website This also explains that there is good evidence that pregnant women have a higher chance of developing complications if they get flu, particularly in the later stages of pregnancy. One of the most common complications of flu is bronchitis — a chest infection that can become serious and develop into pneumonia. If flu is contracted while pregnant, it could cause the baby to be born prematurely or have a low birthweight. This could increase the need for admission to intensive care for mum and baby and may even lead to stillbirth or death.
Most people who get COVID-19 while pregnant experience no, or mild to moderate symptoms, but a small number become seriously unwell. COVID-19 infection in pregnancy has been linked to an increased risk of preterm labour and stillbirth. Almost all pregnant individuals with serious illness requiring hospitalisation and admission to intensive care for COVID-19 have been unvaccinated.
If you get flu and get COVID-19 at the same time, the symptoms are likely to be more serious.
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