Flu vaccines

Flu jabs are available every year on the NHS for those people who need them. The best time to have the jab is in the autumn, but if you’ve missed this time you can still go to your GP surgery or local pharmacy and arrange to have the flu jab.

The flu vaccine offers the best protection against flu, although there's still a chance you might get flu. Should you get flu after being vaccinated, it's likely to be milder and not last as long. Getting the flu jab can reduce the risk of you spreading flu to other people who may be more at risk of serious problems from flu.

Flu vaccines are administered via an injection into the muscle of the upper arm.

Most side effects are mild and only last for a day or so, such as:

  • slightly raised temperature
  • muscle aches
  • sore arm where the needle went in – this is more likely to happen with the vaccine 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

There are several types of injected flu vaccine.

Did you know?

Each year’s flu vaccine is the same for the whole of the northern hemisphere, not just the UK. It usually becomes available from late September/early October, in readiness for the flu season, when cases start to rise, generally in December.

The flu virus is constantly changing, with no two flu seasons having exactly the same strains of virus. This is why each year, the World Health Organization looks at which flu strains are most likely to be in circulation when that year’s winter season arrives. In February, it recommends three strains, and the vaccine manufacturers develop flu vaccines based on this advice.