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.
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:
Frontline health and social care workers are also eligible to receive the flu vaccine. It is your employer's responsibility to arrange and pay for this vaccine.
The flu vaccine is free on the NHS for:
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.
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.
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'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.
The injected flu vaccine is offered free of charge on the NHS to anyone with a serious long-term health condition, including:
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.
The vaccine should always be offered in such cases, even if you are not technically in one of the risk groups above.
If you live with someone who has a weakened immune system, you may also be advised to have a flu vaccine. Speak to your GP or pharmacist about this.
Outbreaks of flu can occur in health and social care settings, and, because flu is so contagious, staff, patients and residents are all at risk of infection.
If you're a frontline health and social care worker, you are eligible for an NHS flu vaccine to protect yourself, your colleagues and other members of the community.
It is your employer's responsibility to arrange vaccination for you. So, if you are an NHS-employed frontline healthcare worker, the NHS will pay for your vaccination. If you are a social care worker, your employer should pay for vaccination.
In the case of health and social care workers employed by private companies, those companies will arrange and pay for the vaccinations.
The NHS has this advice on flu vaccination of health and social care workers (PDF, 223kb).
If you are the main carer for someone who is elderly or disabled, speak to your GP or pharmacist about having a flu vaccine along with the person you care for.
Read more about the flu vaccine for carers on the Carers UK website.
This year (2018) there are 3 different types of flu vaccine:
If your child is aged between 6 months and 2 years old and is in a high-risk group for flu, they will be offered an injected flu vaccine as the nasal spray is not licensed for children under 2.
Talk to your GP, practice nurse or pharmacist for more information about these vaccines.