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.

Questions on the Covid-19 booster

I’m yet to have all my Covid-19 vaccines – should I get the Covid-19 booster this autumn?

If you have not yet had either of your first two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine (or a third dose for those with a weakened immune system) you should have them as soon as possible. If you are eligible for the autumn booster but think you have missed a previous booster you should still go ahead – you will not need another dose.

Can I still catch Covid-19 after having the autumn booster?

The Covid-19 booster will reduce the chance of you becoming severely unwell from Covid-19 this winter. It may take a few days for your body to build up some extra protection from the booster.

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

Who cannot take up the offer of the autumn booster?

There are very few people who should not have this booster. If you have had a severe reaction to a previous dose of the vaccine you should discuss this with your doctor.

Will I get side effects from the autumn booster?

As with your previous dose, the common side effects are the same for all Covid-19 vaccines, including the combination vaccines being used this autumn, 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 have any other Covid-19 symptoms or your fever lasts longer, stay at home and you may need 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 or for textphone use 18001 111. You can also report suspected side effects of vaccines and medicines through the Yellow Card scheme.

What are Covid-19 bivalent booster vaccines?

Covid-19 vaccines which target two different variants of Covid-19 are called bivalent vaccines. Bivalent vaccines broaden immunity and therefore potentially improve protection against variants of Covid-19. All vaccines used in the UK to date have been primarily targeted at the original strain of Covid-19 and have remained effective at preventing severe disease against subsequent variants.

Bivalent booster vaccine FAQ

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

No, the JCVI advises that the booster 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 jab?

Everyone who is eligible that hasn’t already had their first or second Covid-19 vaccination will still be able to get vaccinated, even when the Covid-19 autumn booster programme begins.

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

Everyone who is eligible that hasn’t already had their first or second Covid-19 vaccination will still be able to get vaccinated, even when the Covid-19 autumn booster programme begins.

I have had Covid-19, do I need to wait before having my booster?

If you’ve recently had a confirmed Covid-19 infection, you should ideally wait before getting any dose of the vaccine. You should ideally wait:  

  • 4 weeks (28 days) if you’re aged 18 years old or over
  • 12 weeks (84 days) if you’re aged 5 to 17 years
  • 4 weeks (28 days) if you’re aged 12 to 17 years old and at high-risk from Covid-19

This starts from the date your symptoms started or from the date of a positive test, whichever was earlier. If you had some symptoms but you are not sure if you had Covid-19, you should still attend for vaccination once your symptoms are better and you can discuss this with a healthcare professional when you attend.

Do I need to receive the same type of vaccine or booster as my previous one?

Everyone who is eligible that hasn’t already had their first or second Covid-19 vaccination will still be able to get vaccinated, even when the Covid-19 autumn booster programme begins.

If the vaccine and booster jabs offer high levels of protection, why do I keep having to have more?

For the 2022 autumn booster programme, the primary objective is to boost immunity in those at higher risk from severe Covid-19 illness so that those people have optimal protection against severe Covid-19. In particular, the vaccine will help avoid those people being hospitalised or dying from Covid-19 over winter 2022/23. 

Throughout the pandemic, Covid-19 mortality has 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. Following vaccination, these same factors continue to identify those people who are at higher risk of developing severe Covid-19.

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

In exceptional cases where these vaccines are not clinically suitable, people may be referred to a specialist clinic and offered Nuvaxovid, an alternative vaccine that is recommended for those who cannot have the common vaccine types usually offered.

Questions on the flu jab

How effective is the flu vaccine?

The flu vaccine will help prevent you getting the flu and is your best protection against the virus. It will not stop all flu viruses but if you do get flu after vaccination, it’s likely to be milder and shorter-lived than it would otherwise have been. It takes the immune response about two weeks to fully develop after vaccination.

Will I get side effects from the flu vaccine?

Flu vaccines are very safe. All adult flu vaccines are given by injection into the muscle of the upper arm.

Most side effects are mild and only last for a day or so, such as:

  • slightly raised temperature
  • muscle aches
  • sore arm where the needle went in – this is more likely to happen with the vaccine for people aged 65 and over

Try these tips to help reduce the discomfort:

  • continue to move your arm regularly
  • take a painkiller, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen – some people, including those who are pregnant, should not take ibuprofen unless a doctor recommends it.

Will the flu jab give me the flu?

No. The vaccine does not contain any live viruses, so it cannot cause flu. Some people get a slightly raised temperature and aching muscles for a couple of days afterwards, and you may feel sore at the injection site.

I’ve recently had Covid-19 – can I still have my flu vaccine?

If you’ve had Covid-19, it’s still safe to have the flu vaccine, however you may wish to reschedule your appointment if you are currently experiencing a high temperature or acute illness on the day of the appointment. It will still be effective at helping to prevent flu.

For advice and information about the flu vaccination, visit www.nhs.uk/flujab

What is in the flu vaccine?

There are several types of injected flu vaccine. None of them contain live viruses so they cannot give you flu. If you’re eligible for the flu vaccine on the NHS, you’ll be offered one that’s most effective for you, depending on your age:

  • adults aged 18 to 64 – there are different types, including low-egg and egg-free ones
  • adults aged 65 and over – the most common one contains an extra ingredient to help your immune system make a stronger response to the vaccine

For full information on ingredients, ask for the Patient Information Leaflet for the vaccine you are offered.

What is in the nasal spray flu vaccine?

The nasal spray flu vaccine contains small amounts of weakened flu viruses. They do not cause flu in children.

The nasal spray vaccine contains small traces of pork gelatin. If this is not suitable, speak to your child’s nurse or doctor about the non-porcine flu injection for children.

English: https://youtu.be/cI2eYPEIcCU 

Turkish: https://youtu.be/-sFb44UYjGs 

Romanian: https://youtu.be/05eDpnECvks 

Spanish: https://youtu.be/AgJq7aGv5qY 

Punjabi: https://youtu.be/p40yw42YxGA 

Bengali: https://youtu.be/_S12zhCCn2Y 

Polish: https://youtu.be/XeXBbLt6kiU 

Is there anyone that shouldn’t get the flu vaccine?

Almost everybody can have the vaccine, but you should notify your healthcare professional if you have ever had a serious allergy to the vaccine, or any of its ingredients. If you are allergic to eggs or have a condition that weakens your immune system, you may not be able to have certain types of flu vaccine – check with your GP practice. If you have a fever, the vaccination may be delayed until you are better.

What should I do if I think I have the flu?

The best way to avoid catching and spreading flu is by having the vaccination before the flu season starts.

If you think that you have flu you should:

  • rest and sleep
  • keep warm
  • take paracetamol or ibuprofen to lower your temperature and treat aches and pains
  • drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration (your pee should be light yellow or clear)

A pharmacist can give treatment advice and recommend flu remedies.

Do I still need to get my flu jab if I’ve had all my Covid-19 vaccines?

Yes, the Covid-19 vaccine does not protect you from the flu, and vice versa. As you are eligible for both vaccines you should have them both.

Where do I get the flu vaccine?

The flu vaccine is offered free on the NHS through GP practice and participating community pharmacies and through schools and community venues for school aged children. Pregnant women can visit their GP or a participating pharmacy and in addition may be able to get the vaccine through their maternity services to help protect themselves and their baby.

How do I book an appointment?

If you’re eligible for a free flu vaccine, you can book an appointment at your GP surgery or a pharmacy that offers it on the NHS.

You may be invited to get your free vaccine by the NHS or your GP through a letter, text or email. Don’t worry if you do not receive this. If you are eligible, you do not have to wait for this before booking an appointment. The only exception is if you are aged 50 – 64 years old and are not in a clinical risk group, then you cannot book an appointment before mid-October.

If you receive an invite from the NHS and have already been vaccinated do not worry, sometimes there is a lag in the information flowing through and you do not need to do anything.

Everyone who is eligible for the free flu vaccine will be able to get it. GP surgeries and pharmacies get the flu vaccine in batches to make sure that it is widely available. If you are eligible and cannot get an appointment straight away, ask if you can book an appointment for when more vaccines are available.

How can my child get the flu vaccine?

All children in a clinical risk group can get their flu vaccine at their GP practice. If your child is in a clinical risk group, you do not need to wait for an invite from the School-aged Immunisation Service. Please contact your GP if you would like your child to receive the vaccine earlier in the season.

Children aged 2-3 years old will receive their flu vaccine at their GP practice.

Primary school children in Reception to Year 6 will receive their flu vaccine from the local School-aged Immunisation Service. This will either be in school or at a community clinic.

Some secondary school aged children will be offered a flu vaccine by the local School-aged Immunisation Service, most likely later in the season. Parents should wait to be invited and complete the necessary consent documentation accordingly.

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.

Do I still need to get my flu jab if I’ve had all of my Covid-19 vaccines?

Yes, the Covid-19 vaccine does not protect you from the flu, and vice versa. As you are eligible for both vaccines you should have them both.

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%.

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.

Questions on both the flu and Covid-19 vaccines

Can I have the flu and Covid-19 vaccines if I am pregnant or breastfeeding?

You should have the flu and Covid-19 vaccine if you’re pregnant to help protect you and your baby. It’s safe to have the vaccines at any stage of pregnancy from the first few weeks up to your expected due date. Women who have had the flu and Covid-19 vaccine while pregnant also pass some protection on to their babies, which lasts for the first few months of their lives. It’s safe for women who are breastfeeding to have the vaccine.

Does the flu or Covid-19 vaccines affect fertility?

Women or people who are trying to become pregnant do not need to avoid pregnancy after vaccination and there is no evidence to suggest that Covid-19 or flu vaccines will affect fertility.

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.

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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