Vaccinations

Flu jab: frequently asked questions

When am I most at risk from flu?

Can I go to work or school if I have been in contact with somebody who has recently been diagnosed with flu?

Does everyone need a flu jab?

Why are certain groups targeted for the flu jab?

Can a GP vaccinate anyone else?

Is my child entitled to the flu vaccine?

How long will the flu jab protect me for? 

Can I have a flu jab while I'm taking antibiotics?

How long does the flu vaccine take to become effective?

If I had the flu jab last year, do I need it again now?

Can the flu jab cause flu?

When is the best time to get my flu jab?

Is there anyone who cannot have a flu jab?

Can people get the flu vaccine privately?

Why is it recommended that healthcare workers are vaccinated?

Can I have a flu jab if I'm breastfeeding?

Is it OK to have the flu vaccine at any time during pregnancy?

How do I get the flu vaccine if my GP has run out?

Do I need Tamiflu and how do I get a prescription?

I have had flu symptoms for five days. Can I have visitors?

When am I most at risk from flu?

Flu circulates every winter, usually over a few weeks. Therefore, many people get ill around the same time. In a bad year, this can be an epidemic. However, it is impossible to predict how much flu there will be each year.

Can I go to work or school if I have been in contact with somebody who has recently been diagnosed with flu?

Yes. You should go about your everyday business, but stay at home if you develop flu-like symptoms.

Does everyone need a flu jab?

No, just people who are at special risk of problems if they catch flu. Ask your GP about having a flu vaccination if:

  • you're aged 65 or over
  • you're pregnant
  • you have a serious medical condition
  • you live in a residential or nursing home
  • you're the main carer for an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if you fall ill
  • your child is in an at-risk group and is aged six months to two years. 

You should also be offered the flu vaccination if you are a healthcare or social care worker directly involved in patient care.

Find out more about who should have the flu vaccine.

Why are certain groups targeted for the flu jab?

Complications such as bronchitis and pneumonia are more common in people with other diseases, especially if they are also elderly. Almost all of the deaths related to flu are in people in these groups.

In long-stay residential homes, vaccination prevents the rapid spread of flu among residents.

Can a GP vaccinate anyone else?

The final decision about who should be offered the vaccination is a matter for your GP, based on your medical history and circumstances.

Is my child entitled to the flu jab?

If your child is between six months and two years old and is in a high-risk group for flu, they should have the flu jab.

If your child is between two and 18 years old and is in a high-risk group for flu, they should have the nasal spray flu vaccine instead of the injection.

Healthy two and three-year-olds are also eligible for the flu vaccine, but as the nasal spray not an injection.

How long will the jab protect me for?

The flu jab will provide protection for you for the upcoming flu season.

Can I have the flu jab while I'm taking antibiotics?

Yes, it's perfectly fine to have the flu jab while you are taking a course of antibiotics providing you are not ill with fever.

How long does the flu vaccine take to become effective?

It takes between 10 and 14 days for your immune system to respond fully after you've had the flu jab.

If I had the flu jab last year, do I need it again now?

Yes. The viruses that cause flu can change every year, which means the flu (and the vaccine) this winter may be different from last winter.

Can the flu jab cause flu?

No. The vaccine does not contain any live viruses, so it cannot cause flu. You may get a slight temperature and aching muscles for a couple of days afterwards, and your arm may feel a bit sore where you had the injection. Other reactions are rare and flu jabs are very safe.

When is the best time to get my flu jab?

The best time is as soon as your GP gets supplies of the vaccine. This will be between September and early November. Do not wait until later in the winter, when the flu virus is circulating.

Is there anyone who cannot have a flu jab?

Yes. You should not have the flu vaccine if you have ever had an allergic reaction to a flu vaccine or one of its ingredients. This happens very rarely. You also need to take precautions if you have an egg allergy.

Read more about who should not have the flu jab.

Can people get the flu vaccine privately?

People who aren’t eligible for a flu jab on the NHS can pay for a flu vaccination privately. The flu vaccine may be available from pharmacies or in supermarkets. It would be provided on a private patient basis and you would have to pay. The vaccine costs up to £20.  

Why is it recommended that healthcare workers are vaccinated?

Vaccination prevents healthcare workers passing flu on to, or getting flu from, their patients. It also helps the NHS to keep running effectively during a flu outbreak, when GPs and hospital services are particularly busy.

Can I have a flu jab if I'm breastfeeding?

Yes. The vaccine poses no risk to a breastfeeding mother or her baby, or to pregnant women.

Is it OK to have the flu vaccine at any time during pregnancy?

Yes. The flu vaccine is safe to have in any stage of pregnancy, including in the first trimester and up to the expected due date. It helps protect the mother and also protects the baby from catching flu.

How do I get the flu vaccine if my GP has run out?

GPs have already been asked to check their stocks. If they have run out, they have been advised to work with neighbouring practices or the primary care trust to obtain further supplies. The vaccine manufacturers and suppliers still have stocks available for ordering.

Do I need Tamiflu and how do I get a prescription?

Tamiflu is an antiviral medicine that is used to treat flu. Your GP will decide if you need Tamiflu, and will prescribe it if necessary.

I have had flu symptoms for five days. Can I have visitors?

You are probably not infectious after five days and will be clear of flu by seven days.


Page last reviewed: 11/02/2013

Next review due: 11/02/2015

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The 1 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Wdorset said on 17 October 2013

Sadly.. NHS, one of your answers must be wrong. ("If i had the flu jab last year, do I need it this hear?")
as You told me I needed the flu jab last year (& previous 6) due to asthma, but this year you've decided only if it's really bad... So no jab. I'd have thought better to prevent & avoid taking a risk..

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