If you're 65 and over, it's vital that you have your seasonal flu vaccination. Flu is not simply a bad cold – and it can increase your risk of more serious illness. A seasonal flu jab will help protect you at the time of the year when you are most vulnerable.
Why should I have the flu jab?
People aged 65 and over are at greater risk of having serious complications from the flu compared with younger, healthy adults. These complications could include developing bronchitis or pneumonia. Catching flu can also make some existing conditions worse.
For these reasons, it’s important to have an annual flu jab if you’re aged 65 or over to reduce this risk.
Who can have a free flu jab?
The NHS provides a free flu jab if:
- you’re aged 65 and over
- you have certain health conditions such as a heart problem, a chronic breathing problem, diabetes, chronic kidney/liver disease, Parkinson’s disease or motor neurone disease.
- you’ve had a stroke or mini-stroke
- you have a weakened immune system
- you are the main carer for an older person who may be put at risk if you fall ill and/or you receive Carer’s Allowance.
Speak to your GP or pharmacist if you think you could be eligible.
Frontline care workers should get the flu vaccine to reduce the risk of spreading the flu. If you work in social care, including in a care home or hospice, you can get a free flu vaccination from your GP. If you work in the NHS you need to speak to your employer as they will organise and pay for you to have the vaccine.
When should I have the flu jab?
Most surgeries and pharmacists start to offer the jab in late September or early October. It takes up to 10 days for the vaccine to take effect, so it’s best to have it as early as possible.
I had a seasonal flu jab last year. Do I need one this year?
Flu is a highly infectious disease caused by viruses that are always changing.
You need a flu jab every year because a new vaccine is produced to target those viruses most likely to be in circulation during the coming winter.
Where do I go for my flu jab?
You can have your flu jab at:
- your GP surgery
- a local pharmacy offering the service
Do I need the pneumo jab?
The ‘pneumo’ (or pneumococcal) jab is a one-off jab that helps protect you against pneumonia, meningitis and septicaemia (a type of blood poisoning).
Ask your GP about it if you’re aged 65 and over and haven’t had one.
Julie Banks speaks to Sheelagh Donovan from Age UK to find out more about flu jabs for this winter.
How can I avoid catching the flu?
You can still catch flu even if you have had the flu jab, but if you do catch it you'll probably have milder symptoms than if you hadn’t been vaccinated.
Take these precautions to reduce your risk of catching flu:
- Have the flu vaccination
- Eat a healthy diet, take regular exercise and drink plenty of warm drinks in the winter months
- Wash your hands regularly with soap and warm water, particularly after using the toilet, gardening, petting animals and before eating.