The flu vaccine is a safe and effective vaccine. It's offered every year on the NHS to help protect people at risk of flu and its complications.
This page is about the flu vaccine for adults.
The best time to have the flu vaccine is in the autumn before flu starts spreading. But you can get the vaccine later.
Flu vaccination is important because:
Changes have been made to make sure it's safe for you to have the flu vaccine at GP surgeries and pharmacies. These changes include social distancing, hand washing and wearing protective equipment.
It's important to go to your appointments unless you or someone you live with has symptoms of coronavirus.
The flu vaccine is given to people who:
If you're aged 50 to 64 and have a health condition that means you're more at risk from flu, you should get your flu vaccine as soon as possible.
Other 50- to 64-year-olds should be contacted about a flu vaccine later in the year.
You can have the NHS flu vaccine at:
If you have your flu vaccine at a pharmacy, you do not have to tell the GP. The pharmacist should tell them.
All adult flu vaccines are given by injection into the muscle of the upper arm.
The flu vaccine is offered free on the NHS to anyone with a serious long-term health condition, including:
Talk to your doctor if you have a long-term condition that is not in one of these groups. They should offer you the flu vaccine if they think you're at risk of serious problems if you get flu.
You should have the flu vaccine if you're pregnant to help protect you and your baby.
It's safe to have the flu vaccine at any stage of pregnancy.
If you're a frontline health and social care worker, your employer should offer you a flu vaccine. They may give the vaccine at your workplace.
You may be able to have the flu vaccine at a GP surgery or a pharmacy, if you're a health or social care worker employed by a:
You can also have the flu vaccine if you provide health or social care through direct payments or personal health budgets, or both.
Most adults can have the flu vaccine, but you should avoid it if you have had a serious allergic reaction to a flu vaccine in the past.
You may be at risk of an allergic reaction to the flu vaccine injection if you have an egg allergy. This is because some flu vaccines are made using eggs.
Ask a GP or pharmacist for a low-egg or egg-free vaccine.
If you're ill with a high temperature, it's best to wait until you're better before having the flu vaccine.
The flu vaccine gives the best protection against flu.
Flu vaccines help protect against the main types of flu viruses, although there's still a chance you might get flu.
If you do get flu after vaccination, it's likely to be milder and not last as long.
Having the flu vaccine will also stop you spreading flu to other people who may be more at risk of serious problems from flu.
It can take 10 to 14 days for the flu vaccine to work.
Flu vaccines are very safe. Most side effects are mild and only last for a day or so, such as:
Try these tips to help reduce the discomfort:
It's very rare for anyone to have a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to the flu vaccine. If this does happen, it usually happens within minutes.
The person who vaccinates you will be trained to deal with allergic reactions and treat them immediately.
None of the flu vaccines contains live viruses so they cannot cause flu.
If you are unwell after vaccination, you may have something else. Or you may have caught flu before your vaccination had worked.
There are several types of injected flu vaccine. None of them contains live viruses so they are called inactivated vaccines.
If you're eligible for the flu vaccine on the NHS, you'll be offered one that's most effective for you, depending on your age:
Talk to a GP, practice nurse or pharmacist for more information about these vaccines.
Read more about why vaccines are safe and important, including how they work and what they contain.