Flu vaccination

The annual flu vaccination programme helps protect children, vulnerable adults and older people from the influenza virus which can cause serious illness and even death.

Flu is often used interchangeably with influenza, influenza is the virus that causes flu.

Flu has similar symptoms to the common cold but is more serious and can be deadly in some cases, anyone who has had flu will tell you that it feels much worse than the average cold and usually lasts for several weeks.

The vaccination programme is annual because each year the flu virus changes as the disease travels around the world, so the injection is modified based on the patterns of influenza in the southern hemisphere as it travels across towards the UK.

The 2023 to 2024 national programme focuses vaccination on those who are most likely to be at risk of serious harm from catching influenza. The free flu vaccine is given to those who:

  • are 65 and over (including those who will be 65 by 31 March 2024)
  • have certain health conditions
  • 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 a severe infection due to a weakened immune system, such as
    • someone living with HIV
    • someone who has had a transplant
    • someone having certain treatments for cancer, lupus or rheumatoid arthritis

It’s really important that everyone in the groups listed by the NHS gets a free flu jab every year.

The free flu jabs are available at your GP surgery and most community pharmacies. If you are pregnant, your midwifery service may provide the flu jab too.

The children’s flu vaccine is free on the NHS for:

  • children aged 2 or 3 years on 31 August 2023 (born between 1 September 2019 and 31 August 2021)
  • all primary school children (Reception to Year 6)
  • some secondary school aged children (Year 7 to Year 11)
  • children aged 2 to 17 years with certain long-term health conditions

Find out more about the flu vaccination programme.

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Last updated 15 November 2023

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