- What is flu?
- What are the symptoms of flu?
- Who is at greatest risk from flu?
- Why should I be vaccinated?
- Where can I get vaccinated?
- When can I get vaccinated?
- How often do I need to be vaccinated?
- Am I eligible for a free vaccination?
- Will a flu vaccination give me flu?
- How does a flu vaccination work?
- How are flu vaccines produced?
Why should I be vaccinated?
Many people think of flu as being a bad cold, but it is a serious, contagious disease that can lead to complications, hospitalisation, or even death1. It is estimated that around 10,000 people in the UK may die from flu annually2.
If you have an underlying health condition (such as chronic heart, kidney, liver or respiratory disease) flu can make your condition worse3,4,5. Or if you’re asthmatic, it can trigger an asthma attack6. You are also at increased risk from complications if you are 65 or over or if you are pregnant1.
Put simply, vaccination is the most effective way to avoid catching flu7. And even if you do still contract flu after being vaccinated, the chances are you will experience it more lightly or have fewer symptoms than if you had not been vaccinated1.
A flu vaccination doesn’t just protect you from catching the virus; it also helps to prevent the spread of flu amongst the general population.
If you have a child, vaccinating them can actually protect a wider population – including parents, carers, elderly relatives such as grandparents, younger siblings, classmates and friends8. This is known as herd immunity.
The more people that get vaccinated against flu, the less it can spread within a community1.
This is particularly important if you come into contact with many people who may be vulnerable to complications from flu. For example, if you are a healthcare worker or social worker, who has direct contact with patients or clients2 in a hospital or residential home.
How long does it take for me to become protected?
The flu vaccination itself is over very quickly, whether you have it via a nasal spray or an injection. Your immune system will then begin to produce antibodies, which will protect you from flu. This takes around 10-14 days9, which is why it’s best to get vaccinated as soon as possible, ideally before the end of November, to ensure you’re protected right through the winter10.
Many people are eligible for a free vaccination on the NHS (such as those at high risk with other health conditions, children in certain age groups, adults aged 65 and over and pregnant women)2.
You can get your free NHS flu vaccination* at your GP surgery or in a pharmacy, while most pharmacies in the UK also offer private jabs.
*Free NHS jabs are available only to those who fall within the current risk categories.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Flu Symptoms & Complications, June 2018. Available online: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/complications.htm (accessed July 2018)
- Public Health England. Immunisation against infectious disease: the green book. Chapter 19: Influenza, August 2018. Available online: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_
(accessed September 2018)
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Flu and Heart Disease & Stroke. August 2016. Available online: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/heartdisease/ (accessed July 2018)
- Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee. Flu Vaccinations and Chronic Kidney Disease. Available online: http://psnc.org.uk/avon-lpc/wp-content/uploads/sites/23/2015/07/Chronic-Kidney-Disease-and-Flu-Vaccine-Importance.pdf (accessed July 2018)
- Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee. Flu Vaccinations and Chronic Liver Disease. http://psnc.org.uk/avon-lpc/wp-content/uploads/sites/23/2015/07/Liver-Disease-and-Flu-Vaccine-Importance.pdf (accessed July 2018)
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Flu and People with Asthma. January 2017. Available online: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/asthma/ (accessed July 2018)
- World Health Organization. Influenza (Seasonal) Fact Sheet, January 2018. Available online: http://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/influenza-(seasonal) (accessed July 2018)
- NHS Choices. Children’s Flu Vaccine. July 2018. Available online: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/pages/child-flu-vaccine.aspx (accessed July 2018)
- NHS Choices. How the flu vaccine works. July 2016. Available online: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/pages/how-flu-vaccine-works.aspx (accessed July 2018)
- Public Health England. National flu immunisation programme plan for 2018 to 2019. March 2018. Available online: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-flu-immunisation-programme-plan (accessed July 2018)