Who should have the flu jab?

For most people, flu is an unpleasant illness, but it's not serious. If you are otherwise healthy, you will usually recover from flu within a week.

However, 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 jab each year.

People who should have a flu jab

The injected flu vaccine is offered free of charge on the NHS to people who are at risk. This is to ensure they are protected against catching flu and developing serious complications.

You are eligible to receive a free flu jab if you: 

  • are 65 years of age or over   
  • are pregnant 
  • have certain medical conditions 
  • are very overweight
  • are living in a long-stay residential care home or other long-stay care facility 
  • receive a carer's allowance, or you are the main carer for an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if you fall ill 
  • are a front-line health and social care worker.  It is your employer's responsibility to arrange vaccination for you

Over-65s and the flu jab

You are eligible for the flu vaccine this year (2015-16) if you are aged 65 and over on March 31 2016 – that is, you were born on or before March 31 1951. So, if you are currently 64 but will be 65 on March 31 2016, you do qualify.

Pregnant women and the flu jab

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 reduces your chance of getting serious complications of flu, such as pneumonia, particularly in the later stages of pregnancy
  • it reduces your risk of having a miscarriage, or your baby being born prematurely or with a low birth weight because of the flu
  • it will help protect your baby as they will continue to have some immunity to flu for the first few months of their life

It's safe to have the flu vaccine at any stage of pregnancy from conception onwards. The vaccine doesn't carry any risks for you or your baby. Talk to your GP or midwife if you are unsure about the vaccination.

Read more about the flu jab in pregnancy.

Flu jab for people with medical conditions

The injected flu vaccine is offered free of charge on the NHS to anyone with a serious long-term health condition. That includes these types of illnesses:  

This list of conditions isn't definitive. It's always an issue of clinical judgement.

Your GP can assess you individually to take into account the risk of flu exacerbating any underlying illness you may have, 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.

Flu vaccine for children

The flu vaccine is recommended for:

  • children over the age of six months with a long-term health condition
  • healthy children aged two, three and four plus children in school years one and two.

Children aged between six months and two years of age who are eligible for the flu vaccine should have the flu jab.

Children eligible for the flu vaccine aged between two and 18 will usually have the flu vaccine nasal spray.

Read about who should have the children's flu vaccine.

Flu jab for health and social care workers

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 front-line health and social care worker, you are eligible for an NHS flu jab 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 front-line healthcare worker, the NHS will pay for your vaccination. If you are a social care worker, your employer – for example, your local authority – will 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, 131kb).

Flu jab for carers

If you care for someone who is elderly or disabled, speak to your GP or pharmacist about having a flu jab along with the person you care for.

Read more about the flu jab for carers on the Carers UK website.

This NHS leaflet gives information about the flu vaccination 2015-16 aimed at carers of and people with a learning disability.

Page last reviewed: 11/02/2015

Next review due: 11/02/2017


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The 16 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

DomCook said on 02 October 2015

Useful advice thanks. Is there a definition as to what exactly "very overweight" refers too? Is this down to individual clinical judgement or is there a BMI threshold?

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Kathryn at NHS Choices said on 01 October 2015

Dear User587109,

You are quite right that it is now possible to have flu vaccination on the NHS at some pharmacies. I've updated our flu jab content to include more information on getting the vaccine from a pharmacy here:

Best wishes,
Kathryn Bingham, editor at NHS Choices

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User587109 said on 03 September 2015

NHS flu vaccinations are now available from many pharmacies free of charge as an alternative to going to your GP.

They order based on demand and can often get stocks in at shorter notice than GP practices (so they shouldn't run out, and if they do can get more quickly).

Many also don't require an appointment so you can just drop in and get vaccinated at your convenience.

Its a shame this isn't being more widely advertised.

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OldCrock said on 31 January 2014

What they do not tell you about the flu jab is all the affects it can have. Firstly they say it cannot give you the flu. Wrong. It laid me flat with the flu 2 days after having it. 6 days later i had a severe allergic reaction, site of vaccination swollen and red, covered in itchy spots which after 2 days joined up to raised red, itchy skin. Hands, arms etc began to swell and it affected my eyes. Sent to A & E because it was starting to affect breathing. Adrenalin injection and steroids sorted that but all left me with a hacking cough for days. Penicillin sorted that. Now on my medical records i am never to receive a flu vaccination again thank goodness.
One more thing they do not tell you is the death rate of having the flu vaccination, It may be low numbers but each one is one too many.

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Kathryn at NHS Choices said on 09 December 2013

Dear leidlerbeiwien,

GPs are advised to purchase sufficient flu vaccine for all their eligible patients, so presumably your GP under calculated.

Your GP could purchase more vaccine, as there’s plenty available, or alternatively prescribe you a vaccination at a neighbouring practice, if that’s easily accessible.

Best wishes,
Kathryn Bingham, NHS Choices editor

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Anonymous said on 29 November 2013

I was on holiday for the first two and was unwell for the third of the three flu vaccination clinics at the GP Practice that I have been registered with for two years. I've just been told by my GP practice that they have no more stock of vaccine for those who qualify for a free vaccination and that I will have to pay at a pharmacy to get the vaccination. Can this be right? Surely GP practices order enough vaccine for all over 65's registered with them. I am 68 years old and have had the flu vaccination for the past three years.

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ajb27 said on 14 November 2013

hi all just wanted to add my thought on the new policy for the flu jab, I have Addisons Disease and a over active immune system (Autoimmune Polyendocrine Syndrome) and also had neumonia and was shocked to find out that after many years of having the flu jab I was told that I didn't fit the criteria this time I had no idea the policy had changed! Disguisting. I have read other comments on this matter and I agree with you all on this matter!

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KatWeb said on 13 November 2013

Totally agree being comments being made about the change in criteria for asthmatics, I too have been refused a flu jab by my doctors due to this change in policy - the last time I wasn't given a flu jab I was seriously ill because some one decided I wasn't asthmatic, which was changed when I was ill. I will pay for jab as I don't want to be in that situation again. This change in criteria is absolute madness, and will cost far more than it will save.

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JudyT said on 07 November 2013

I am so glad that it's not just me. I had a very upsetting morning as I get refused when I went to my flu jab appointment. The staff were very unhelpful and unfriendly with it, just citing 'new guidelines'. You're right that there's been no publicity about this and it extremely embarassing to get turned down when I always have a flu jab because of my asthma.

This is a new GP surgery for me as we moved house in March but I contacted my old Doctor to ask him about it and although he did say there were no guidelines, he would still have given me the flu jab had I still be a patient of his. So it's down to the GP's discretion and if you have a good one you're in luck and for the rest of us, the don't care.

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Kathryn at NHS Choices said on 23 October 2013

Dear Wdorset, Galaxy27 and time for change:

GPs are advised that the flu vaccine is recommended for people with asthma that requires continuous or repeated use of inhaled or tablet steroids OR who have ever had to be admitted to hospital for asthma.

But it's always an issue of clinical judgement. Your GP can assess you individually to take into account your risk of flu exacerbating any underlying illness you may have, 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 two asthma risk groups above.

In your cases, it may be worth making an appointment with your GP to have your need assessed.

Kind regards,
Kathryn Bingham (NHS Choices editor)

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Wdorset said on 17 October 2013

Share concerns of others here - short-sighted cost-cutting decision of NHS. Asthmatics with bad flu will end up costing the NHS far more than a measly flu jab.... (Let alone what it will cost them and their families). I am suddenly no longer for flu jab despite having steroid inhalers prescribed.. perhaps because I use sparingly so haven't requested one for a while. I don't actually know though as was simply told vaguely 'criteria have changed' by med centre receptionist while GP I was there to see simply wasn't interested (he was already 3 apps behind) but cheerily brushed it off.
Meanwhile I will ring med centre just for the courtesy of having this better explained for my situation as today's efforts fell short..

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Galaxy27 said on 14 October 2013

I think this page should mention the revised guidelines for this year mean that only asthma patients with steroid inhalers will be offered the vaccine regardless of how often they use non steroid inhalers. My husband always suffers greatly in flu season and uses non steroid inhalers regularly but despite being asked to turn up for an appointment was told he cannot have it. I am a HCW and would much prefer that he did have it as is at increased risk of developing complications. This is blatently a money saving exercise which is clearly going to compromise patient safety. It is unacceptable that this has been allowed to happen, and that there has been no publicity regarding why these changes have been made.
Surely with so many people being urged to turn up for their flu jabs, you should give it to people who actually want them.
Very disappointed.

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time for change said on 12 October 2013

Nhs moving the goalposts again, I arranged for a flu jab at my gp, on arrival was told I was no longer eligible for flu jab as I have not requested asthma inhalers for 3 months , been asthma sufferer since birth and have been hospitalised for peunomia, disgusted with NHS at present.

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susanxx said on 10 October 2013

Nic e to see the goalposts have moved! It used to be over 60 now its gone upto 65, obviously its connected to the retirement age rising. The goverment hope you'll be dead before you need a jab or can claim your pension. But why is it if you are over 60 your prescriptions are free but you cannot get a prescription for a flu jab so you can have one if you are 60? Stroppy doctors receptionist says she has never heard of a prescription for the flu jab so no way can you get a jab, rubbish, thats the way it used to be done. There are too many anomolies with the NHS, it needs sorting from the ground level up.

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Sugar daddy said on 27 September 2013

Anything that is on offer to keep you well you must take it that is my advice

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samirp said on 18 September 2013

this page should also explain clearly about the new campaign for children aged 2 - 3 years being routinely offered the new nasal spray flu vaccine from September 2013.

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