The government wants to increase the number of people receiving the flu vaccination this year amid fears coronavirus cases could coincide with cold and flu season.
In July, plans were announced to double the amount of people who receive the flu jab, from 15 million to 30 million.
Here’s how to book a free flu vaccination this year - and who is eligible.
Who is eligible for the flu jab?
If suitable, anyone can get the flu jab, but some may have to pay to get it privately, whereas people of a certain age, those with certain medical conditions, and frontline or social care workers are offered it for free on the NHS.
This year the flu vaccine is being offered on the NHS to:
- adults 65 and over
- people with certain medical conditions (including children in at-risk groups from 6 months of age)
- pregnant women
- people living with someone who's at high risk from coronavirus (on the NHS shielded patient list)
- children aged 2 and 3 on 31 August 2020
- children in primary school
- children in year 7 (secondary school)
- frontline health or social care workers
The NHS explains that just those who are at particular risk of problems if they catch flu need a vaccine.
Some pharmacies also offer free NHS flu vaccination to adults and social care workers in the categories listed above, but they do not offer this service for children.
You should also have the flu vaccine if you're a healthcare or social care worker who is directly involved in patient care.
You may also be able to have the flu vaccine at the GP surgery or a local pharmacy offering the service if you're a frontline health or social care worker employed by a:
- registered residential care or nursing home
- registered homecare organisation
You can also have the flu vaccine if you provide health or social care through Direct Payments (personal budgets) or Personal Health Budgets (such as Personal Assistants) or both.
The NHS notes, “Later in the year, the flu vaccine may be given to people aged 50 to 64. More information will be available later in the autumn.
“However, if you're aged 50 to 64 and in an at-risk group, you should not delay having your flu vaccine.”
What if I live with someone on the shielded patient list?
The NHS wants to keep those who are most vulnerable to Covid-19 well this winter and does not want them to catch flu.
Therefore, if you live with someone who's on the NHS shielded patient list, or you expect to be with them on most days over winter, then you should ask for a free flu vaccine.
Can I get the flu vaccine privately?
Adults who are not eligible for a flu vaccine on the NHS can pay for a flu vaccine privately.
The flu vaccine may be available from pharmacies or in supermarkets and is provided on a private patient basis. The vaccine can cost up to £20.
Is there anyone who should not have the vaccine?
The NHS explains that most adults can have the injected flu vaccine, but you should avoid it if you have had a serious allergic reaction to a vaccine in the past.
Where can I get the flu vaccine?
You can have your NHS flu vaccine at:
- your GP surgery
- a local pharmacy offering the service
- your midwifery service if they offer it for pregnant women
Some community pharmacies now offer flu vaccination to adults (but not children) at risk from flu, including pregnant women, people aged 65 and over, people with long-term health conditions and carers.
If you have your flu vaccine at a pharmacy, you do not have to inform a GP, it’s up to the pharmacist to do that.
When is the best time to get the flu jab and when will it be available?
The best time to have a flu vaccine is in the autumn before flu starts circulating, but even if it's later, it's always worth getting vaccinated. Ask the GP or pharmacist for more information.
“Flu circulates every winter and generally peaks in December and January,” the NHS website says.
In February each year, the World Health Organization (WHO) assesses the strains of flu virus that are most likely to be circulating in the northern hemisphere over the following winter and then recommends which flu strains the vaccines should contain for the forthcoming winter.
The vaccine is usually available in the UK from September, however, this can vary between doctors surgeries or pharmacies.
How can I book my flu jab?
To book your NHS flu jab you can ring your doctor’s surgery to be booked in for an appointment.
Those who are eligible for a flu jab on the NHS may receive a letter or a phone call to remind them to book in for their flu jab.
Alternatively, you can book your flu jab at your local pharmacy or some may offer walk-in appointments.