Flu and Covid-19 can be life-threatening and spread more easily in winter when we are crowded together inside.

Most adults and children can get a free flu vaccine, Covid-19 booster or both.

The best way to protect ourselves from these viruses is to get vaccinated.

Don’t delay – book your winter vaccinations online today, or speak to your GP or pharmacists.

Flu and Covid-19 booster jabs are now being offered to most adults and children to make sure they are protected against these viruses as we head into winter.

There could be a significant flu surge this winter happening at the same time as rising Covid-19 cases. Colder weather makes it easier for the virus to spread, and darker nights mean spending more time with friends and family indoors where it is less well ventilated. We also expect that many people will have lower protection against the flu virus due to having reduced contact with others last winter.

With rising cases caused by the Omicron variant, everyone aged 18 and over is now eligible for a booster jab which provides vital extra protection against the virus.

Those eligible for the winter vaccinations should have their appointments as soon as possible to give themselves and their loved ones the best possible protection this winter.

Still haven’t had your first or second dose for Covid-19? It’s not too late to protect yourself.

Who is eligible?

The Covid-19 booster is available for anyone aged 18 and over (and those aged 16-17 with underlying conditions) where it has been at least three months after your second dose. You can book your vaccine using the national booking system, or by calling 119. Everyone over 18 can, where possible, book directly with, or walk into, a local vaccination centre.

Most people will be offered a booster dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine or Moderna vaccine. This means your booster dose may be different from the vaccines you had for your 1st and 2nd doses. Some people may be offered a booster dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine if they cannot have the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccine.

The flu vaccine is given free on the NHS to people who is aged 50 and over, aged 18-49 with long-term health conditions, those who are pregnant, and children aged 2 and 3 years old.

Some people may be eligible for both the flu and the COVID-19 booster vaccines.

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

Frequently asked questions

Are you considering not getting the flu vaccine this year? Are you confused about why you need a Covid-19 booster so soon after the first vaccination? Or is there something else about the winter vaccinations that concern you?

Read below for more information on why it’s important to get vaccinated this winter.

About Covid-19 boosters

Who is eligible for the booster jab?

You can get a booster dose if you had a second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine at least three months ago and:

  • you are aged 18 or over
  • you are aged 16 or over with a health condition that puts you at high risk of getting serious ill from Covid-19
  • you are a frontline health or social care worker
  • you live or work in a care home
  • you are aged 16 or over and are a main carer for someone at high risk from Covid-19
  • you are aged 16 or over and live with someone who has a weakened immune system (such as someone who has HIV, has had a transplant, or is having certain treatments for cancer, lupus, or rheumatoid arthritis)

People who are pregnant and are in one of the eligible groups can also get a booster dose.

Why do I need a booster jab?

Research suggests the protection provided by vaccines decreases gradually over time. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has assessed that the booster jab offers many health benefits for people most at risk from Covid-19.

A booster dose of the coronavirus vaccine helps improve protection you have from your first two doses of the vaccine. It helps give you longer-term protection against getting serious ill from Covid-19.

When do I need to have my booster jab?

You’ll be offered the Covid-19 booster jab at least six months after you had your second dose. The NHS will let you know when it’s your turn to have a booster. It’s important not to contact the NHS for one before then.

Which vaccine will I receive for my Covid-19 booster?

The Pfizer vaccine will be given in the booster programme, regardless of which vaccine someone received for their first two doses.

Some people may be offered a booster jab of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine if they cannot have the Pfizer/BioNTech.

Does the Covid-19 booster cause serious side effects?

As with your previous dose the common side effects are the same for all COVID-19 vaccines used in the UK, and include:

  • having a painful, heavy feeling and tenderness in the arm where you had your injection. This tends to be worst around 1 to 2 days after the vaccine
  • feeling tired
  • headache
  • general aches, or mild flu like symptoms

You can rest and take paracetamol (follow the dose advice in the packaging) to help make you feel better. Although feeling feverish is not uncommon for 2 to 3 days, a high temperature is unusual and may indicate you have COVID-19 or another infection. Although a fever can occur within a day or 2 of vaccination, if you have any other COVID-19 symptoms or your fever lasts longer, stay at home and arrange to have a test.

Symptoms following vaccination normally last less than a week. If your symptoms seem to get worse or if you are concerned, you can call NHS 111.

If you had serious side effects after any previous dose you may be advised to avoid or delay further vaccination. You should discuss this with your doctor or specialist.

How and when do I get my Covid-19 booster?

If you’re eligible, you’ll be offered a booster dose at least three months after you’ve had your second dose.

Most people can:

  • Book a vaccination appointment online for an appointment at a vaccination centre or pharmacy
  • Go to a walk-in vaccination site to get vaccinated without needing an appointment
  • Wait to be contacted by a local NHS service such as GP surgery and book an appointment with them.
Is it safe to attend vaccination appointments?

The NHS continues to make sure that vaccinations are given in safe environments. All possible precautions will be taken to make sure you, and staff, are protected. If you have Covid-19 symptoms, do not attend your vaccination appointment but instead self-isolate and book a coronavirus test at nhs.uk/coronavirus or by calling 119. You can rebook your flu and Covid-19 booster vaccination appointments at a later date.

About flu jabs

Who is eligible for the flu jab?

The flu vaccine is given free on the NHS to people who are most at risk from flu.

This includes:

  • all adults aged 50 years or over
  • people who live and work in care homes
  • frontline health and social care workers
  • pregnant people
  • all adults aged 18 or over with a health condition that puts them at high risk of getting seriously ill from flu
  • 2-3 year olds
  • primary and secondary school children (including children ‘at risk’).
How effective is the flu vaccine?

The flu vaccine 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 the flu vaccine will also stop you spreading flu to other people who may be more at risk of serious problems from flu. It can take 10 to 14 days for the flu vaccine to work.

Can you catch flu from the vaccine?

No, the vaccine contains an inactivated virus which cannot give you flu.

Does the flu vaccine cause serious side effects?

Only one in a million people get serious side effects. Mild side effects such as soreness around the injection site and aching muscles are more common, but these are far less serious than the effects of contracting flu.

Is flu just like having a bad cold?

Flu is a very serious illness which kills 11,000 people a year in the UK and hospitalises many more. It can lead to severe complications including pneumonia and organ failure.

How will I know if I have the flu or Covid-19?

The flu virus and Covid-19 have symptoms which overlap, such a high temperature or persistent cough. It may be difficult to tell which virus you have. For this reason, it’s really important that you have a flu vaccination if you are eligible, and that you continue to follow the guidance on self isolation and testing at nhs.uk/coronavirus if you have any of the symptoms of Covid-19.

Does the nasal vaccine/spray contain gelatine?

Yes, the nasal vaccine contains a highly processed form of gelatine (porcine gelatine), which is used in a range of essential medicines. The gelatine helps to keep the vaccine viruses stable so that the vaccine provides the best protection against flu. The nasal vaccine is offered to children, as it is more effective in the programme than the injected vaccine. This is because it is easier to administer and considered better at reducing the spread of flu to others, who may be more vulnerable to the complications of flu. However, if your child is at high risk from flu due to one or more medical conditions or treatments and can’t have the nasal flu vaccine, they should have the flu vaccine by injection. Some people may not accept the use of porcine gelatine in medical products. You should discuss your options with your nurse or doctor.

I’ve been vaccinated before so do I need to do it again?

The flu virus mutates constantly, and the vaccine is updated every year to counter the latest strains so it is important to get vaccinated every year.

I have a long-term health condition – but I feel healthy and well. Do I need to get vaccinated?

Flu can cause serious illness or death in people living with long-term health conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetes, heart and liver conditions, and others. Getting vaccinated reduces your chance of catching flu by 40-60%.

I’m pregnant. Should I get vaccinated?

The flu vaccine is safe at any stage of pregnancy, and is recommended for all pregnant women as they face a higher risk of developing complications from flu.

Can I book online?
Flu vaccines can be booked online with the local pharmacist at myvaccinations.co.uk, or just walk-in to your nearest participating pharmacy. People who are eligible will also be connected by your GP directly and invited to book.
Is it safe to attend vaccination appointments?

The NHS continues to make sure that vaccinations are given in safe environments. All possible precautions will be taken to make sure you, and staff, are protected. If you have Covid-19 symptoms, do not attend your vaccination appointment but instead self-isolate and book a coronavirus test at nhs.uk/coronavirus or by calling 119. You can rebook your flu vaccination appointment at a later date.

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