Each year the NHS prepares for the unpredictability of flu. For most healthy people, flu is an unpleasant but usually self-limiting disease with recovery generally within a week.
However, there is a particular risk of severe illness from catching flu for:
- older people
- the very young
- pregnant women
- those with underlying disease, such as chronic respiratory or cardiac disease
- those who are immunosuppressed
This year you are also recommended to have the flu vaccine if you are:
- the main carer of an older or disabled person
- a household contact of someone on the Shielded Patients List for COVID-19
- a child aged 2 to 11 years old on 31 August 2020
Below are some frequently asked questions about the flu vaccine, and their answers:
When am I most at risk from flu?
Flu circulates every winter and generally peaks in December and January. This means many people get ill around the same time.
But it's impossible to predict how many cases of flu there will be each year or exactly when it will peak.
Why are people who live with those on the NHS shielded patient list being offered a flu vaccine?
The NHS wants to keep those who are most vulnerable to COVID-19 well this winter and does not want them to catch flu.
If you live with someone who's on the NHS shielded patient list, or you expect to be with them on most days over winter, then you should ask for a free flu vaccine.
How long will the flu vaccine protect me for?
The flu vaccine will provide protection for you for the upcoming flu season. People eligible for flu vaccination should have the vaccine each year.
How long does the flu vaccine take to become effective?
It takes between 10 and 14 days for your immune system to respond fully after you have had the flu vaccine.
If I had the flu vaccine last year, do I need it again now?
Yes. The viruses that cause flu can change every year, which means the flu (and the vaccine) this winter may be different from last winter.
Can the flu vaccine cause flu?
No. The vaccine does not contain any live viruses, so it cannot cause flu.
You may get a slight temperature and aching muscles for a couple of days afterwards, and your arm may feel a bit sore where you had the injection.
Other reactions are rare, and flu vaccines have a good safety record.
For children, the nasal spray vaccine cannot cause flu because the viruses in it have been weakened to prevent this happening.
When is the best time to get my flu vaccine?
The best time to have a flu vaccine is in the autumn, before flu starts circulating. But even if it's later, it's always worth getting vaccinated.
For more information about the seasonal flu vaccination, elegibility, and frequently asked questions, visit