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Frequently asked questions

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

Questions on the flu and seasonal Covid-19 vaccines

If I have had a flu or Covid-19 vaccine before, do I need to get them again?

If you are eligible for the flu or seasonal Covid-19 vaccines it is important to top up your protection, even if you have had a vaccine or been ill with flu or Covid-19 before, as immunity fades over time and the viruses change each year.

The vaccines give you additional protection to that gained from previous infections. If you have recently had Covid-19 you will still get extra protection from the vaccine, but you will need to wait four weeks before getting vaccinated.

Can I still catch flu and Covid-19 after having the vaccines?

The flu and seasonal Covid-19 vaccines will reduce the chance of you becoming severely unwell and may help you recover more quickly if you catch the viruses. It may take a few days for your body to build up some extra protection from the vaccines.

Like all medicines, no vaccine is completely effective – some people may still get flu or Covid-19 despite having the vaccinations, but any infection should be less severe.

Why do I keep needing to have ‘booster’ doses of the Covid-19 vaccine?

The seasonal Covid-19 vaccine is given to top up the protection in those at higher risk from severe illness to help prevent people being hospitalised or dying from Covid-19 this winter. During the pandemic, Covid-19 disproportionately affected those in older age groups, residents in care homes for older adults, and those with certain underlying health conditions, particularly those who are severely immunosuppressed which is why we vaccinate them regularly to ‘top up’ their protection.

Is there anyone that shouldn’t get the vaccines?

There are very few people who should not have the flu and seasonal Covid-19 vaccines. If you have had a severe reaction to a previous dose of the vaccines, or any of their ingredients, you should discuss this with your doctor or pharmacist.

If you are allergic to eggs you may not be able to have certain types of flu vaccine – check with your immuniser. If you have a fever, the vaccination may be delayed until you are better.

Will I get side effects from the vaccines?

As with your previous doses, the common side effects are the same for all Covid-19 and flu vaccines, 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 you feel better.

Although a fever can occur within a day or two of vaccination, if you experience a high temperature, if your symptoms seem to get worse or if you are concerned, you can call NHS 111. Symptoms following vaccination normally last less than a week.

You can also report suspected side effects of vaccines and medicines through the  Yellow Card Scheme.

Can I have a vaccine if I feel unwell?

If you are unwell, wait until you have recovered to have your vaccines. You should not attend an appointment if you have a fever or think you might be infectious to others.

Should I get the vaccines if I think I have already had flu or Covid-19?

If you think you’ve already had flu or Covid-19, once you’ve recovered you should get the vaccines as they will still help protect you.

I’ve only just had my first or second Covid-19 vaccine – can I have the seasonal vaccine?

No, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advises that the seasonal vaccine should be offered no earlier than three months after completion of the primary vaccine course.

I haven’t been vaccinated against Covid-19 yet – can I still get my first jabs?

Only children aged 6 months to 4 years old who are at increased risk of getting seriously ill from Covid-19 can currently get a first or second Covid-19 vaccine.

Since the end of the spring 2023 vaccination campaign, the focus has been on offering a first or second Covid-19 vaccine to those at higher risk and only during seasonal campaigns. This means during this year’s autumn/winter vaccination programme, those eligible for the first or second Covid-19 vaccine will be the same as those eligible for the seasonal vaccine.

The main exception to this is unvaccinated people aged 5 years and above who become or have recently become severely immunosuppressed. These people should be considered for the first and second vaccines, regardless of the time of year. Speak to your GP if this applies to you or someone you care for and they will use their clinical judgement to decide on the best time to begin vaccination.

Do I need to receive the same type of seasonal Covid-19 vaccine as my previous ones?

No, all Covid-19 vaccines authorised for use by the NHS are effective and provide a strong booster response. When you attend your appointment, the NHS will offer you a safe, effective vaccine.

What if I had a bad reaction to a previous Covid-19 vaccine?

In very rare cases if you’ve had a severe allergic reaction to one of the common vaccines you may be referred to a specialist clinic for an alternative Covid-19 vaccine.

What if have an allergic reaction to the Covid-19 vaccine?

If you experience any adverse reactions or allergies to the Covid-19 vaccination, please consult your GP. They will be able to conduct an assessment and complete a referral form if necessary. The North East London Covid-19 Allergy Service is provided by Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust.