FLU VACCINE / FLU JABS
Why flu vaccination is important
Flu vaccination is important because, while flu is unpleasant for most people, it can be dangerous and even life threatening for some people, particularly those with certain health conditions.
The best time to have your flu vaccine is in the autumn or early winter before flu starts spreading. But you can get your vaccine later.
Who can have the flu vaccine?
The flu vaccine is given free on the NHS to adults who:
- are 50 and over (including those who will 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 a severe infection due to a weakened immune system, such as someone living with HIV, someone who has had a transplant, or is having certain treatments for cancer, lupus or rheumatoid arthritis
Flu vaccine for people with long-term health conditions
The flu vaccine is offered free on the NHS to anyone with a serious long-term health condition, including:
- respiratory conditions, such as asthma (needing a steroid inhaler or tablets), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), including emphysema and bronchitis
- heart conditions, such as coronary heart disease or heart failure
- being very overweight – a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or above
- chronic kidney disease
- liver disease, such as hepatitis
- some neurological conditions, such as Parkinson's disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), or cerebral palsy
- a learning disability
- problems with your spleen like sickle cell disease, or if you've had your spleen removed
- a weakened immune system as a result of conditions such as HIV and AIDS, or taking medicines such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy
Flu vaccine if you're pregnant
You should have the flu vaccine if you're pregnant to help protect you and your baby.
It's safe to have a flu vaccine at any stage of pregnancy.
Find out more about flu vaccine in pregnancy
Flu vaccine for frontline health and social care workers
If you're a frontline health and social care worker, you should get your flu vaccine through your employer. They may give you the vaccine at your workplace through the occupational health scheme.
If you cannot get a flu vaccine through your employer, you can still get it if you're employed:
- by a registered residential care or nursing home
- by a registered domiciliary care provider
- by a voluntary managed hospice provider
- If you are one of these frontline staff, you can get vaccinated at a pharmacy or the GP surgery you are registered with.
- If you are employed by a registered residential care or nursing home, or a voluntary managed hospice provider, you may also be offered vaccination at your place of work when the residents or patients are vaccinated.
Who should not have the flu vaccine
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.
How effective is the flu vaccine?
Vaccination 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 a flu vaccine may help stop you spreading flu to other people who could be more at risk of serious problems from flu.
It can take 10 to 14 days for the flu vaccine to work.
Flu vaccine side effects
Flu vaccines are very safe. All adult flu vaccines are given by injection into the muscle of the upper arm.
Most side effects are mild and only last for a day or so, such as:
- a slightly raised temperature
- muscle aches
- sore arm where the needle went in – this is more likely to happen with one of the vaccines for people aged 65 and over
Try these tips to help reduce the discomfort:
- continue to move your arm regularly
- take a painkiller, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen – some people, including those who are pregnant, should not take ibuprofen unless a doctor recommends it
Allergic reactions to the flu vaccine
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.
Eligible groups and invitations
NHS Scotland recommends that the flu vaccine is offered to all:
- people aged 50 or over
- residents or staff working in a care home for older adults
- younger adults in long-stay nursing and residential care settings
- frontline healthcare workers
- frontline social care workers
- people aged 16 to 49 years with an eligible health condition
- people aged 16 to 49 years who are household contacts of someone with a weakened immune system
- an unpaid carer or a young carer (aged 16 years or over)
- pregnant women
- nursery, primary or secondary school teachers or pupil-facing support workers in local authority or independent settings
- prison officers or support workers who deliver direct front-facing detention services
Source: Public Health Scotland
The flu vaccine is a safe and effective vaccine. It gives the best protection against flu. It’s offered every year for free by the NHS to help protect people at risk of flu and its complications.
The vaccine helps protect against the main types of flu viruses. But there’s still a chance you might get flu after having the vaccine. If you do get flu after vaccination, it’s likely to be milder and not last as long.
Having the flu vaccine can also stop you spreading flu to other people who may be more at risk of complications and serious illness if they catch flu.
The best time to get vaccinated is from the beginning of October to early November. However, we offer the vaccination right through to March, so you can come in at time over the winter season.
No, the flu vaccination only contains inactive particles of the flu viruses so it can't cause flu. If you get flu immediately after receiving the flu vaccination it is likely to be because the vaccination has not yet become fully effective. You should therefore have the flu vaccination as soon as it becomes available.
The flu vaccine is offered to all primary and secondary school pupils in Scotland. It is normally given at school between September and December.
Further information HERE
Most people don't experience any adverse effects, however the most common side effects are general aches and pains, a rash at the injection site and feeling tired. These will usually go away within a day or two, but if symptoms do persist you'll need to see your GP.
If your arm feels sore apply a cold flannel and take painkillers, if necessary. If you have a headache or slight fever, drink plenty of water and take painkillers, if necessary, such as paracetamol.
Other side effects are very rare and include nerve pain, inflammation of the nerves or blood vessels, fits, blood disorders and neurological disorders.
Learn more about the flu vaccine and any possible side effects of the flu jab HERE.