From September 2021, the flu vaccine will be offered to over 35 million people, including all secondary school students for the first time. This builds on the success of last year’s expanded flu programme, which saw a record number of people get their jab.

The expanded flu programme will be delivered alongside any booster programme for COVID-19 vaccines, which centres around protecting as many lives as possible.

The flu vaccine is the best protection we have against the unpredictable flu virus. By getting a flu jab you’re not only protecting yourself, but you’re also helping to reduce the risk of the infection spreading to the people you care for and to those who are more vulnerable.

Which groups can get a free flu vaccine on the NHS for 2021/22 season?

You should have the flu vaccine if you are:

    • People aged 50 years or over (including those becoming age 50 years by 31 March 2022)
    • Pregnant at any stage of pregnancy (including those women who become pregnant during the influenza season)
    • 6 months to 65 years old and have certain medical conditions
      • Chronic (long-term) respiratory diseases, such as asthma (that requires an inhaler or tablet steroid treatment, or has led to hospital admission in the past), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema or bronchitis.
      • Chronic heart disease, taking regular medication for ischaemic heart disease, chronic heart failure or congenital heart disease, hypertension with cardiac complications.
      • Chronic kidney disease at stage 3, 4 or 5, chronic kidney failure, nephrotic syndrome or kidney transplant, those on kidney dialysis.
      • Chronic liver disease, such as chronic hepatitis, cirrhosis or biliary atresia. More information on liver disease and flu.
      • Chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), a learning disability or cerebral palsy. More information for people with a learning disability.
      • Diabetes mellitus  More information on diabetes and flu.
      • Spleen problems – for example, sickle cell disease, if you have had your spleen removed or have coeliac syndrome (due to impact on immune system)
      • Weakened immune system as the result of conditions such as HIV and AIDS, or medicines such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy.
      • Are seriously overweight (a BMI of 40 or above).
    • Living in a long-stay residential care home or another long-stay care facility.
    • Household contacts of an individual on the shielded patient list aged 6 months and over
    • Carers: if you receive a carer’s allowance, or you’re the main carer for an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if you fall ill. More information for Carers.
    • Child aged 2 and 3 years on 31 August 2021 (that is, born between 1 September 2017 and 31 August 2019). Poster to encourage flu vaccination.
    • All children aged 2 to 15 (but not 16 years or older). More information on the school programme.
    • Work in a care home, residential or nursing home or provide domiciliary care for those in vulnerable group or employed through Direct Payments or Personal Health Budget to deliver domiciliary care.
    • Your GP may decide you are clinically at risk for other reasons and recommend a flu jab.

There is more information on these target groups on the NHS website.

Where can I get my free NHS flu vaccination?

Children in school will be vaccinated at school.

If you are eligible as an employed health or care worker then contact your occupational health provider for more information. Or you can go along to a pharmacy with ID to prove you are eligible, for example your ID badge, recent payslip or letter from employer on headed paper.

Everyone else in one of the targeted groups will be able to go to their GP or pharmacy to get a flu vaccination. You do not need a letter from your GP, just tell the pharmacist which target group you are in.

If you are on your GP’s target lists you will have received direct contact from them, either by letter, text or phone call advising on the process for flu vaccinations. GPs are starting to host flu clinics, phone, have a look at your local GP website for more information or drop into the surgery.

The following pharmacies in Somerset offer flu vaccinations:

If I am not eligible for a free flu vaccination can I get one privately?

Yes. If you are not eligible for a free NHS vaccination, at pharmacies offering flu jabs you can pay privately. The cost can be as little as around £7.

What are the risks of side effects from the flu vaccination?

Its quite common for your arm to feel a little sore immediately after receiving the vaccination. The vaccine which is given to those 65 and over is especially boosted as your immune system is generally weaker as you get older. This means the risk of feeling a bit under the weather for a couple of days is increased. This is not a form of flu but the reaction of your immune system to the vaccine.

The vaccination types given to adults only contain ‘dead’ virus so you cannot catch flu from it. It takes about two weeks to completely build up your immunity from the vaccination, in this time you may just be unlucky to catch flu. Or you may develop a cold unrelated to the vaccine.

The rate of more severe allergic reactions to a vaccination is about 1-2 per million vaccinations given. The person giving your vaccination will be trained what to do if this happens.

There is more information on the NHS website on side effects.