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Flu vaccine - who gets it?

Written by Healthwords's team of doctors and pharmacists based in UK | Updated: 03.03.2023 | 2 min read

The NHS runs an efficient vaccination programme every autumn to roll out flu vaccines to those that need them. These include people in certain categories that make them vulnerable to severe illness if they catch the influenza virus and which can then cause breathing difficulties, pneumonia, sepsis and death.

The flu vaccine is also prioritised for health care workers for two reasons: firstly so they don't pass on the virus to their patients, and secondly so they don't become unwell and require time off sick.

Who gets the flu vaccine on the NHS?

People who fit the following criteria will be routinely invited by their GP practice to book a free flu vaccine:

  • Anyone aged 50 and over (including those who will be 50 by 31 March 2023)
  • Those aged under 50 with certain long term health conditions, such as heart or respiratory conditions, diabetes, physical disability or a weakened immune system
  • Asthma is one criteria, but only if you are prescribed regular steroid inhalers
  • Pregnant women
  • Carers
  • People in long-term residential care
  • Children – see below for details on the nasal spray flu vaccine for children.

Your GP surgery will contact you if you are eligible to invite you in for a free vaccine. It’s best to get in before flu season starts, in September or October.

The nasal spray flu vaccine is free on the NHS for children aged 2 or 3, all primary school children (Reception to Year 6), some secondary school aged children and children aged 2 to 17 years with long-term health conditions (If you have a child aged between 6 months and 2 years with a long-term health condition that puts them at extra risk from flu, they'll be offered a flu vaccine injection instead of the nasal spray because the nasal spray isn’t licensed for children under 2 years old.)

Why can’t everyone get it?

They can! But unfortunately not from the NHS. Anyone can buy the flu vaccine from a pharmacy and have it administered there. Make sure you are fit and well on the day, and the sooner in the season you get it, the earlier that you are protected.

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