There has never been a more important time to make sure you, and those you care for, are protected against serious illnesses such as the flu.
We are asking everyone who is at risk of being affected by the flu to get vaccinated this winter. By having the flu vaccination, you will help protect yourself and others from what can be a severe, and sometimes fatal, illness which could lead to hospital treatment. You will also be helping to protect the NHS from coming under pressure this winter.
Who should get the flu vaccine?
This year the free flu vaccine is being offered on the NHS to people who:
- are 50 and over (including those who’ll be 50 by 31 March 2022)
- are pregnant
- are in 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 is more likely to get infections (such as someone who has HIV, has had a transplant or is having certain treatments for cancer, lupus or rheumatoid arthritis)
- frontline health or social care workers
- are experiencing homelessness
The free flu vaccine is also being offered to those with a long-term health condition such as:
- 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
The nasal spray flu vaccine is offered every year to children to help protect them against flu. Read more about the children’s nasal flu vaccine.
The nasal spray vaccine may also be offered to people in a clinical risk group under exceptional circumstances, such as some people with learning disabilities who may otherwise go unimmunised if they refuse to have the injected vaccine. Please speak to your local GP for more information.
Where to get the flu vaccine
You do not need to be registered with a GP or have an NHS number to get a flu vaccine. Registering with a GP is an important thing to do as it allows you access healthcare services, but you should not be turned away from a walk-in pharmacy site.
You may be asked to declare your health condition that makes you eligible for the free flu vaccine. No immigration checks will be carried out when you receive the vaccine.
You can have the NHS flu vaccine at:
- your GP surgery
- a pharmacy offering the service
- your midwifery service if you’re pregnant
- a hospital appointment
You can get the vaccine from your pharmacist by booking online at londonflu.co.uk or by walking in.
Frequently asked questions
Is the flu vaccination safe?
The flu vaccination is safe and effective and is given annually. It cannot give you the flu. It does not protect you from COVID-19 or seasonal coughs and colds, but it does give protection against the strains of flu virus that will be circulating this year.
Adults usually receive the flu vaccination in injection form, and children usually receive a nasal spray.
When can I get the flu vaccination?
The flu vaccination is available from autumn 2021 onwards. You will be invited to book a vaccination appointment at around this time, but please contact your GP practice or local pharmacy if not. It’s important that you have your vaccination as soon as possible.
Where can I get the flu vaccination?
Many people will receive their flu vaccination at a GP surgery as usual. Others may go to a pharmacy or another location in their community. School-aged children will receive their vaccination from a trained health professional at school or in their community. Health professionals will also visit care homes to vaccinate residents on-site.
Can I get the flu vaccine if I am not registered with a GP?
You do not need to be registered with a GP or have an NHS number to get a flu vaccine. You don’t need to prove your identity, your address or your immigration status to access the vaccine but you may be asked to declare your health condition that makes you eligible for the vaccine free of charge.
Does the flu vaccine cause serious side effects?
Only one in a million people get serious side effects. Mild side effects such as soreness around the injection site and aching muscles are more common, but these are far less serious than the effects of contracting flu.
I’ve been vaccinated against flu before so do I need to do it again?
The flu virus mutates constantly, and the vaccine is updated every year to counter the latest strains so it is important to get vaccinated annually.
I’m pregnant. Should I get vaccinated?
The flu vaccine is safe at any stage of pregnancy and is recommended for all pregnant women as they face a higher risk of developing complications from flu.
Is it safe to attend appointments at health clinics?
The NHS is doing everything it can to make sure that vaccinations are given in safe environments. All possible precautions will be taken to make sure you, and staff, are protected.
If you have COVID-19 symptoms, do not attend your vaccination appointment but instead self-isolate and book a coronavirus test at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/ or by calling 119. You can rebook your flu vaccination appointment at a later date.
How will I know if I have the flu or COVID-19?
The flu virus and COVID-19 have symptoms which overlap, such a high temperature or persistent cough. It may be difficult to tell which virus you have. For this reason, it’s really important that you have a flu vaccination if you are eligible, and that you continue to follow the guidance on self-isolation and testing at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/ if you have any of the symptoms of COVID-19.
Where vaccines are available, it’s vital that we use them to help keep everyone safe. Look out for updates from your local GP or NHS team and book your vaccination as soon as they are available.
More information can be found at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/who-should-have-flu-vaccine/
GOV.UK also provide Easy Read guides to flu vaccination for people with a learning disability.