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People who are most at risk from complications of flu are recommended to get a flu vaccine every year. This winter, it is especially important with flu and coronavirus (COVID-19) both in circulation. Research shows that if you get both at the same time you may be more seriously ill.
Who can have the flu vaccine?
You can get a free flu vaccine if you:
- are 65 years old and over (including those aged 65 by 31 March 2021)
- have certain health conditions
- live with someone who is on the NHS Shielded Patient List
- are pregnant
- receive a carer’s allowance
- are the main carer of an older or disabled person who may be at risk if you get sick
Children aged 2 to 11 on 31 August 2020 are also eligible for the flu vaccine (with 2- and 3-year-olds offered it in GP surgeries and school-aged children offered it in school).
You can get the flu vaccine at your GP surgery or a pharmacy if you’re a health and social care worker employed by a:
- registered residential care or nursing home
- registered homecare organisation
You can also get the flu vaccine at your GP surgery or a pharmacy if you provide health or social care through direct payments or personal health budgets.
This year the free flu vaccine will be offered to healthy 50- to 64-year-olds later in the season. People in this age bracket with a health condition that makes them more at risk from flu will be offered it sooner.
Visit NHS.UK to check whether you are eligible.
Even if you are in one of the listed groups, you may be asked to wait to have your flu vaccine
Overall, there is enough flu vaccine for everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated before the flu season starts, which is usually in December. Flu vaccine is delivered to GP practices, pharmacies and other services in batches in the run-up to and over flu season. This year, early demand for flu vaccine has been higher than usual.
This has meant that while a lot of people have been able to get vaccinated, some people have not been able to get vaccinated straight away as some GP practices and pharmacies have used their early supplies of flu vaccine, due to the level of demand.
If you are eligible and haven’t been able to get your vaccination yet, you will still be able to have it before flu season starts.
You may be able to get your vaccine elsewhere if your GP practice or pharmacy has run out
If you are eligible for the free flu vaccine, you can get it from your own GP practice or any pharmacy offering NHS flu vaccinations. They should be able to tell you when they next expect to be able to offer you a vaccine.
Pregnant women can ask their maternity provider for the free flu vaccine and some of those visiting hospitals, either as in- or out-patients, may also be offered the flu vaccine there.
Why some people are being offered the vaccine while others have to wait
There are several types of flu vaccines available. You will be offered one that is recommended for you based on your age. This means some people will be offered a flu vaccine that is in stock while others, who need a different type of vaccine, may have to wait.
Wait for the right vaccine for you
Providers of flu vaccination services are required to offer the vaccine that is most effective for you. It is better to wait to get the right vaccine so that you get the most benefit from it.
The best time to have a flu vaccination
It is best to have the vaccine before flu starts to circulate, which is usually from December onwards. But, if it is later in the season than this, it is still worth having.
The priority this year is to vaccinate those who are most at risk from flu first, including people of all ages who have a health condition that makes them more at risk from flu. People aged 50 to 64 without a health condition that puts them at risk from flu will be offered the vaccine later on and should wait to be invited for vaccination.
What you need to do
The national call and recall service is writing to eligible patients throughout the flu season this year to remind them to get the vaccine. You may also be invited by your GP practice to make an appointment. However, you do not have to wait until you receive a letter to get vaccinated. If you have been advised you are eligible for a flu vaccine but can’t have the flu vaccine now because the best vaccine for you is not currently available, follow the advice from your GP surgery or pharmacy and book an appointment at the next opportunity.