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Getting a Flu Vaccine

Andrew Bellingham

Andrew Bellingham

Pharmacist | 20+ Years | BPharm | Dip Clin Pharm

Most of us have seen adverts, posters and articles about getting a flu vaccine around this time every single year. And, honestly, many of us ignore it. Unless you’ve been strongly advised to get vaccinated by your doctor, a lot of us take our chances. However this winter, with COVID-19 still about, and infection rates increasing, getting vaccinated is something we should all consider.

You have most likely heard about the “double danger” of the flu and covid. The scary research shows that not only can you catch both at the same time, your risk of becoming critically ill increases significantly if this happened.

Getting a flu vaccine has never been more important than it is this season. According to the NHS, this is partially because:

  • If you are in a high-risk group for coronavirus, you will also be more likely to have flu complications
  • You’re more likely to be seriously ill if you get the flu and coronavirus at the same time
  • It’ll help to reduce pressure on the social care staff and the NHS

With the surge in covid cases, you may be worried about going into your pharmacy to book your appointment. Fortunately, you don’t have to. Download the Healthera App and book your flu jab online now.

NHS Flu Vaccine

Under the NHS, the flu vaccine is given to those that are at high risk from developing the flu, or complications with the flu, and now COVID-19. Included in the list are below.


  • are 65 and over
  • have certain health conditions
  • are pregnant
  • are in a long-stay residential care
  • receive a carer’s allowance
  • are the main carer for an older or disabled person who may be at risk
  • live with someone who’s at high risk from coronavirus
  • are a frontline health or social care worker


  • children aged 2 or 3 years
  • primary school children (reception to year 6)
  • year 7 in secondary school
  • children with long-term health conditions (aged 2 to 17)

It is recommended that if you have the flu vaccine administered every year, especially if you are in these categories. This is because the flu viruses can change every year.

Flu Jab for Children

The flu vaccine is offered in the form of a nasal spray to children every year. It is a safe way to protect them from developing the flu, and related complications such as bronchitis and pneumonia. Unfortunately by nature, it’s quite easy for children to spread illnesses such as the flu. Therefore it’s important they get vaccinated to not only protect each other, but others older or younger that could be vulnerable or high risk.

Nasal Spray

The nasal spray is a vaccine that contains small amounts of the flu virus; not enough to make the child sick. It is painless, compared to the flu injection, and is quick and effective. The vaccine is simply squirted up each nostril, becoming effective within 2 weeks. 

The nasal spray is for children between the ages of 2 and 17. Those under 2 that are high risk would be given a flu jab, as will children for whom the nasal spray is unsuitable.

Where To Get the Flu Vaccine

NHS flu vaccines are available at the below locations:

  • GP surgery
  • Pharmacy (if they are offering the service)
  • Midwifery service
  • School (for children)
  • Community clinic (home-schooled children)

For children and those in high risk categories, you are likely to receive an invitation to get your flu vaccination. However, you can speak to your doctor or local pharmacy about booking a flu jab appointment near you. You can book your flu jab appointment online, over the phone, or in person, depending on who is providing the service.

Side Effects of the Flu Vaccine

As with most vaccines, the flu vaccine does come with a set of potential side effects. These are usually very mild, and will go away in a few days on their own. The most common side effects are:


  • Soreness / bruising where the needle entered the skin
  • Muscle aches
  • Fever
  • Fatigue

Nasal Spray

  • Headache
  • Tiredness
  • Runny nose
  • Blocked nose
  • Loss of appetite

You can use painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen to help with the side effects. (Check with your doctor before taking ibuprofen if you are pregnant or unsure if it is safe for you)

Please note that while some side effects are similar to the symptoms of a flu, this is simply your body’s immune system reacting to the vaccine. It cannot give you the flu as it doesn’t contain any active flu viruses.

Reasons Not to Get The Flu Shot

While the flu shot is very beneficial to many, there are a few cases where you may consider not having it. You shouldn’t have the flu vaccine if you’ve previously had a serious allergic reaction to it. If you have an egg allergy, ask your doctor or pharmacist for an egg-free vaccine. It is also recommended that if you are already ill with flu symptoms, you wait until you are better before getting the vaccine.

There is also the simple case that you may be worried about how the vaccine is administered. While both the injection and spray are safe, they can be unpleasant for some, so speak to the medical care provider about your concerns so they can help.

Flu Vaccine Concerns

How do I book the flu vaccine?

You can book the flu vaccine on the Healthera App with your local pharmacy. To do so, click on the Pharmacy tab, then Services. You can then manage your appointment and see when it is coming up.

Can I get the flu shot if I’m pregnant?

It’s safe to get the flu vaccine when you’re pregnant, regardless of the stage of pregnancy you are in. It is actually strongly recommended you get one to protect yourself and your baby.

How much is a flu jab?

If you are in one of the categories eligible for getting a flu vaccine on the NHS, you can get it for free. If you are not in these categories however, and would still like to get the flu vaccine, you would have to do so through a private service. This is available at a number of pharmacies. As it’s private, there isn’t a national price and so it can vary, generally ranging from about £8-£13 depending on where you go.

Is the flu vaccine effective?

The flu vaccine starts working within 2 weeks, and is the most effective way to prevent getting the flu, or serious illnesses associated with it. It also prevents you from being able to accidentally spread it to those that are more susceptible. The vaccine used, the quadrivalent flu vaccine, protects against four strains of influenza virus.

My pharmacy isn’t offering the flu vaccine

While you can get your flu jab at most pharmacies, some limit this to only those that are eligible to receive the NHS vaccination, due to there being limited availability. This availability is more strained during the COVID-19 pandemic due to the surge in patients opting to get their vaccines.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding the flu vaccine, whether or not you are undecided, you can speak to your doctor or pharmacist.


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