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Info on Winter Health services including FLU and COVID boosters available locally here

Influenza (usually simply called flu) is a common viral infection which is spread by coughs and sneezes. You can catch flu at any time of year but it's more common in the winter months.

The main symptoms of flu are a sudden high temperature, headache, aches and pains, tiredness and a sore throat. You may also cough or sneeze. The symptoms can come on very quickly.

Although it's painful and tiring, flu is usually a fairly mild condition that goes away by itself in around a week. However in older people or those who have certain medical conditions, flu can lead to serious complications and may require medical treatment.

Flu Vaccination

Flu and COVID can both be life-threatening and spread more easily in winter, when we are all crowded together inside.

As we learn to live with COVID-19, it’s so important to make sure you are protected against potentially serious winter illnesses such as the flu.

Even if you were vaccinated against flu last year, you will need another this winter as the virus can change from year-to-year. Boost your immunity this winter by getting the free vaccine.

The flu vaccine is given free on the NHS to people who:

  • are 50 or over (including those who'll be 50 by 31 March 2023)
  • have certain health conditions
  • are pregnant
  • are in long-stay residential care
  • receive a carer's allowance, or are the main carer for an older or disabled person who may be at risk if you get sick
  • live with someone who is more likely to get infections (such as someone who has HIV, has had a transplant or is having certain treatments for cancer, lupus or rheumatoid arthritis)
  • frontline health or social care workers

It’s best to have the flu vaccination in the autumn.

The flu jab is free for everyone who is at increased risk. To get the vaccination, speak to your GP or practice nurse or pharmacist, or visit the NHS website. You can also book an appointment at a local pharmacy.

School-aged children will receive their vaccination from a trained health professional at school. For more information on children and flu vaccination visit the NHS Child Flu website.

Check if you can get a free flu jab via an employer scheme

If you are currently working, it's worth checking to see if your employer offers a free flu vaccine as part of its employee benefits package.

Some do this, usually in the form of a voucher you can redeem at a participating pharmacy.

No, I'll have to pay for a private flu jab

If you're not eligible for a free NHS flu vaccination and your employer doesn't offer this benefit, you can pay privately for an appointment at a pharmacy. 

The cost of a private flu jab ranges from around £10-£20, with the cheapest being at supermarket pharmacies – the cheapest we've found are:

At Boots, Lloyds Pharmacy, Morrisons and Superdrug, flu jabs cost around £16-20. It's also worth checking with your local independent pharmacy to see their prices.

You can also use the NHS Patient Access app to check for available private appointments near you.

Some people are being offered a COVID booster vaccination this autumn, this includes anyone over 50, people with health conditions and health and social care workers. You will be offered a booster dose at least three months after your last dose. If you have not had a first or second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine yet, you should have them as soon as possible.

Visit the NHS website to find out more about the COVID-19 booster vaccine and who can get it.

If you are offered both vaccines, it's safe to have them at the same time.

There are several types of injected flu vaccine. None of them contain live viruses so they cannot give you flu.

If you can have the flu vaccine on the NHS, you'll be offered one that's most effective for you, depending on your age:

  • adults aged 18 to 64 – there are different types, including low-egg and egg-free ones
  • adults aged 65 and over – the most common one contains an extra ingredient to help your immune system make a stronger response to the vaccine
  • The flu vaccination is given as a nasal spray to most children. See the information above or find out more from the NHS 
  • Children aged between six months and two years who have a long-term health condition are offered an approved injected flu vaccine instead of the nasal spray vaccine

Talk to a GP, practice nurse or pharmacist for more information about the vaccines.

The Department of Health and Social care and NHS has produced information for social care workers and carers.

It gives details on the benefits of the flu vaccination and options for accessing it. Those who should receive a flu vaccination include all front-line adult social care workers,
social care workers working with children who are clinically vulnerable to flu, hospice workers, personal assistants and some carers.

Other information and advice

Flusurvey is a website run by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. During the peak flu season in winter, users can register and then enter information about cold or flu symptoms, which is used to create a map of the flu outbreak. It also has useful information about flu prevention and vaccines.

Easy Read The Easy Health website has gathered together various easy-read leaflets and videos  which will help people with learning disabilities to understand more about flu and common colds.

Last updated: 10/10/2023