Flu for people aged 65 or over
Flu can be more severe in people aged 65 or over.
Flu can lead to serious complications such as bronchitis and pneumonia (a lung infection), and you could end up in hospital.
Don't put it off – contact your GP or a pharmacist to get a flu vaccine now. It's free because you need it.
65 and overs and the flu jab
You are eligible for the flu vaccine this year (2018-19) if you will be aged 65 and over on March 31 2019 – that is, you were born on or before March 31 1954. So, if you are currently 64 but will be 65 on March 31 2019, you do qualify.
Where to get the flu jab
You can have your NHS flu jab at:
- your GP surgery
- a local pharmacy offering the service
- your midwifery service if they offer it for pregnant women
Some community pharmacies now offer flu vaccination to adults (but not children) at risk of flu including pregnant women, people aged 65 and over, people with long-term health conditions and carers.
If you have your flu jab at a pharmacy, you don't have to inform your GP – it is up to the pharmacist to do that.
How effective is the flu jab?
Flu vaccine is the best protection we have against an unpredictable virus that can cause unpleasant illness in children and severe illness and death among at-risk groups, including older people, pregnant women and those with an underlying medical health condition.
Studies have shown that the flu jab will help prevent you getting the flu. It won't stop all flu viruses and the level of protection may vary, so it's not a 100% guarantee that you'll be flu-free, but if you do get flu after vaccination it's likely to be milder and shorter-lived than it would otherwise have been.
There is also evidence to suggest that the flu jab can reduce your risk of having a stroke.
Over time, protection from the injected flu vaccine gradually decreases and flu strains often change. So new flu vaccines are produced each year which is why people advised to have the flu jab need it every year too.
Flu jab side effects
Serious side effects of the injected flu vaccine are very rare. You may have a mild fever and aching muscles for a couple of days after having the jab, and your arm may be a bit sore where you were injected.
When to have a flu jab
The best time to have a flu vaccine is in the autumn, from the beginning of October to early November, but don't worry if you've missed it, you can have the vaccine later in winter. Ask your GP or pharmacist.
The flu jab for 2018/19
Each year, the viruses that are most likely to cause flu are identified in advance and vaccines are made to match them as closely as possible. The vaccines are recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Most injected flu vaccines protect against three types of flu virus:
- A/H1N1 – the strain of flu that caused the swine flu pandemic in 2009
- A/H3N2 – a strain of flu that mainly affects the elderly and people with risk factors like a long term health condition. In 2018/19 the vaccine will contain an A/Hong Kong/4801/2014 H3N2-like virus
- Influenza B – a strain of flu that particularly affects children. In 2018/19 the vaccine will contain B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus
The nasal spray flu vaccine and some injected vaccines also offer protection against a fourth B strain of virus, which in 2018/19 is the B/Phuket/3073/2013-like virus.
Is there anyone who shouldn't have the flu jab?
Most adults can have the injected flu vaccine, but you should avoid it if you have had a serious allergic reaction to a flu jab in the past. People who have egg allergy may be at increased risk of reaction to the injectable flu vaccine because some flu jabs are made using eggs. If you are ill with a fever, it's best to delay your flu vaccination until you have recovered. There is no need to delay your flu jab if you have a minor illness with no fever such as a cold.