Each year, the viruses that are most likely to cause flu are identified in advance and the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends which type of flu virus strains to include in the vaccine.
The flu vaccine is the best protection against an unpredictable virus that can cause unpleasant illness in children and severe illness and death among at-risk groups, including older people, pregnant women and those with an underlying medical health condition.
Studies have shown that the flu vaccine will help prevent you getting the flu. It won’t stop all flu viruses and the level of protection may vary, so it’s not a 100% guarantee that you’ll be flu-free, but if you do get flu after vaccination it’s likely to be milder and shorter-lived than it would otherwise have been.
Flu Vaccine Q and A
Most frequently asked questions and answers
Is it safe?
The flu vaccines used in the national programme have a good safety record. There are 3 types of flu vaccine:
- a live quadrivalent vaccine which is given as a nasal spray to children and young people aged 2 to 17 eligible for the flu vaccine
- a quadrivalent injected vaccine which is given to adults aged between 18 and 65 who are at increased risk from flu due to a long-term health condition and for children aged 6 months and above in an eligible group who cannot receive the live vaccine
- an adjuvanted trivalent injected vaccine. This is for people aged 65 and over as it has been shown to be more effective in this age group. To be eligible for this you should be 65 on 31st March, 2019 – that is, you were born on or before March 31 1954.
Talk to your GP, practice nurse or pharmacist for more information about these vaccines.
Who should have the flu vaccine?
The flu vaccine is routinely given on the NHS to:
- adults 65 and over (including adults over 18 at risk of flu)
- pregnant women
- children aged 2 and 3
- children in reception class and school years 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5
- children aged 2 to 17 years at risk of flu
Who shouldn't have the flu vaccination?
What are the side effects?
Serious side effects of the injected flu vaccine are very rare. You may have a mild fever and aching muscles for a couple of days after having the vaccine, and your arm may be a bit sore where you were injected.
Side effects of the nasal spray vaccine may commonly include a runny or blocked nose, headache, tiredness and some loss of appetite.