Help reduce demand on NHS services by getting your free flu jab
Every year flu has a major impact on the NHS and social care services during winter months; killing thousands of people and hospitalising even more. The flu vaccination is one of the most effective ways we can protect ourselves, our loved ones and the vulnerable in our community against it.
This winter, the flu vaccination programme is even more critical in the context of COVID-19. It’s vital that those most at risk are vaccinated to reduce demand from flu on NHS services and to avoid exacerbating COVID-19 pressures.
Who’s eligible for the vaccine?
The flu vaccination is the best protection for you and those around you which is why it is offered for free for those most at risk. And this year, the programme has been expanded and the free flu vaccine will be offered to a record number of 30 million people to help protect as many as possible from flu and ease pressure on the NHS and urgent care services. Those eligible for a free vaccination are:
- aged 65 and over (including those who’ll be 65 by 31 March 2021)
- have certain health conditions
- are pregnant
- are in a long-stay residential care
- receive a carer’s allowance, or are the main carer for an older or disabled person who may be at risk if you get sick
- live with someone who’s at high risk from coronavirus (on the NHS shielded patient list)
- frontline health or social care workers
- those aged between 50 and 64 who have a health condition (other 50 to 64 year-olds will be contacted about a vaccine later)
Anyone in these risk groups is more likely to develop potentially serious complications of flu, such as pneumonia (a lung infection), so it’s recommended that they have a flu vaccine to help protect them against it.
If you are eligible for the free flu vaccine, you can receive it from your own GP practice or any pharmacy offering NHS flu vaccinations. Speak to your GP or pharmacist and they should be able to tell you when they next expect to be able to offer you a vaccine. Pregnant women can ask their maternity provider for the free flu vaccine and some of those visiting hospitals, either as in- or out-patients, may also be offered the flu vaccine there.
Flu vaccine for people with long-term health conditions
The flu vaccine is offered free on the NHS to anyone with a serious long-term health condition, including:
- respiratory conditions, such as asthma (needing steroid inhaler or tablets), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), including emphysema and bronchitis
- heart conditions, such as coronary heart disease or heart failure
- being very overweight – a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or above
- chronic kidney disease
- liver disease, such as hepatitis
- neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), or cerebral palsy
- a learning disability
- 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 taking medicines such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy
Talk to your doctor if you have a long-term condition that is not in one of these groups. They should offer you the flu vaccine if they think you’re at risk of serious problems if you get flu.
Flu vaccine for pregnant women and children
The NHS are advising those who are pregnant to get the flu vaccination as it’ll help yourself and your baby. 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.
For children, the NHS are offering the flu vaccination in the form of a nasal spray to help protect them against the flu.
The nasal spray flu vaccine is free on the NHS for:
- children aged 2 or 3 years on 31 August 2020 – born between 1 September 2016 and 31 August 2018
- all primary school children (reception to year 6)
- all year 7 in secondary school
- children aged 2 to 17 years with long-term health conditions
If your child is aged between 6 months and 2 years and is in a high-risk group for flu, they’ll be offered a flu vaccine injection instead of the nasal spray. This is because the nasal spray is not licenced for children under 2 years old.
Flu vaccine for people with learning disabilities
People who have a learning disability can be more susceptible to the effects of flu and are therefore at increased risk of developing complications such as bronchitis or pneumonia. As the NHS emerges from the covid pandemic, anyone with a learning disability is encouraged to get their free vaccination and annual health check to help stay well this winter.
Carers of anyone with a learning disability are also entitled to the free vaccination. All carers (family member or support worker) are urged to ensure they are registered at their local GP practice as a carer of someone with a learning disability. Individuals should also be on their GP Learning Disability Register to access the very best care.
Who should not have the flu vaccine
Most adults can have the flu vaccine, but you should avoid it if you have had a serious allergic reaction to a flu vaccine in the past. You may be at risk of an allergic reaction to the flu vaccine injection if you have an egg allergy. This is because some flu vaccines are made using eggs. Ask a GP or pharmacist for a low-egg or egg-free vaccine. If you’re ill with a high temperature, it’s best to wait until you’re better before having the flu vaccine.
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