Flu is a serious condition that kills on average 11,000 people in England each year and hospitalises tens of thousands more. Adults at high risk from flu are also most at risk from Covid-19, so getting the free vaccine is more important than ever, to help protect the nation from a double threat this winter.
The flu vaccination is the best protection for you and those around you, which is why it is offered for free for those most at risk. This year, the programme has been expanded and the free flu vaccine will be offered to a record 30 million people to help protect as many as possible from flu and ease pressure on the NHS.
What is flu? Isn’t it just a heavy cold?
Flu (short for influenza) is a common infectious viral illness spread by coughs and sneezes. Most people usually recover within two to seven days, but for some the disease can lead to hospitalisation, permanent disability or even death. Those with long term health conditions are more at risk of developing complications from flu and thousands of people end up in hospital suffering from flu every year.
You can catch flu all year round, but it's especially common in winter, which is why it's also known as "seasonal flu". Colds are a different virus – they are less serious and usually start gradually with a stuffy or runny nose, and a sore throat. A bad bout of flu can be much worse than a heavy cold.
But it is also possible to have the infection without having any symptoms.
Am I eligible for a free flu vaccine?
If you fall into one of these at-risk groups, you are eligible for a free flu jab:
adults 65 and over
people with certain medical conditions (including children in at-risk groups from 6 months of age)
people living with someone who is at high risk from coronavirus (on the NHS shielded patient list)
people who receive a carer's allowance, or who are the main carer of an older or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if the carer falls ill
children aged 2 and 3 years on 31 August 2020
children in primary school
children in Year 7 (secondary school)
frontline health and social care workers
The flu vaccine may also be offered to people aged 50-64 later on in the year.
All eligible people will be invited to get their free flu jab. If your child is at school and aged 4-11, make sure you sign and return the consent form.
If you are not eligible for a free NHS vaccine, you can still protect yourself with a private flu jab, available from a pharmacy for around £13.
The NHS will be taking all necessary measures to make sure it is safe for you to have your flu vaccination.