The NHS flu vaccine is offered every year to protect you from getting seriously ill with the flu in the season of coughing and sniffing.
You just need to meet certain requirements to get the free vaccine, and some may be able to get one sooner than others.
So if you’re looking to get a shot to help you stay fit and healthy this fall and winter, here’s what you need to know.
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Why is a flu vaccine important?
First of all, if you’re not really sure about the usefulness of a flu vaccine because it’s just a more unpleasant but harmless “cold” (wrong), here’s a reminder of why it’s necessary to protect yourself.
The NHS outlines that they are important because:
While no one likes the flu, it can be dangerous and even life-threatening for some, especially those with health conditions.
More people are expected to get the flu this winter as fewer of us are building natural immunity during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The flu vaccine will be offered free of charge to people 50 and older from mid-October, including those who will be 50 by March 31, 2023, so that the most at-risk groups get it first.
Who can get the flu vaccine?
The official list of who can get the flu vaccine for free on the NHS includes adults who:
Be 65 and older (including those who will be 65 on March 31, 2023)
have certain health problems
are in long-term residential care
receive a health care allowance, or are the primary carer of an elderly or disabled person who may be at risk if you become ill
living with someone who is more likely to get a serious infection due to a weakened immune system, such as someone with HIV, someone who has had a transplant, or is undergoing certain treatments for cancer, lupus, or rheumatoid arthritis
are frontline health workers
are social workers who cannot get the vaccine through an occupational health care facility
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When will the flu vaccine be rolled out?
NHS England announced on September 5 that the NHS will roll out the flu vaccine and encourage eligible people to take up the offer if possible.
The flu vaccine will be offered free of charge to individuals 50 and older from mid-October, including those who will be 50 by March 31, 2023, so that the most at-risk groups can get it first.
However, if you are in this age group and If you have a long-term health condition that puts you at risk of flu, you do not have to wait until this date.
The recommended time to get your flu vaccine is in the fall or early winter before the expected spread of flu. But don’t worry, if you don’t get around to it, you can still get your vaccine at a later date.
Flu vaccine for serious long-term health problems
The flu vaccine is also offered free of charge to anyone with the conditions below:
respiratory diseases, such as asthma
heart disease, such as coronary artery disease
being very overweight
chronic kidney disease
liver disease, such as hepatitis
some neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease
a learning disability
problems with your sleep, such as sickle cell disease
a weakened immune system due to certain conditions
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For more information, see the full list of conditions here and talk to your doctor if you have a long-term illness that you can’t recognize, and they can determine if you’re at risk for serious problems from the flu. If so, you should be offered the shot.
If you qualify for a free flu vaccine, book the appointment with your GP, a pharmacy that offers it or maternity care, if you are pregnant. While you may also receive an invitation to get vaccinated, you don’t have to wait for this before booking an appointment.
You may also need to consider availability as surgeries and pharmacies get the flu vaccine in batches throughout the flu season, so if you’re having trouble getting an appointment ask if you can book one for when they have some in stock .
Some people qualify for the flu vaccine and the COVID-19 booster vaccines, and if you’re offered both, it’s safe to get them at the same time.
See the NHS website page on flu vaccines for more information on who can get the flu vaccine, including pregnant people, primary care and social workers, who should not have it, how effective it is and possible side effects.
For information on the vaccine for children, see the NHS website page on childhood flu vaccines.
Find a pharmacy that offers NHS flu vaccination here.
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