Protect yourself this winter

It’s “just the flu

I am sure you will have heard friends and family say it is “Just” the flu!

Each year the flu kills on average 11,000 people and hospitalises thousands more. There’s no “just” about it! 

What causes flu?

Flu is caused by influenza viruses that infect the windpipe and lungs. And because it’s caused by viruses and not bacteria, antibiotics won’t treat it. However, if there are complications from getting flu, antibiotics may be needed.

How do you catch flu?

The flu virus spreads from person to person. Even amongst those not showing symptoms. When an infected person coughs or sneezes, they spread the flu virus in tiny droplets of saliva over a wide area. These droplets can then be breathed in by other people or they can be picked up by touching surfaces where the droplets have landed. You can prevent the spread of the virus by covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. You should wash your hands frequently or use hand gels to reduce the risk of picking up the virus and wear a mask, as advised, unless you are exempt. But the best way to avoid catching and spreading flu is by having the vaccination before the flu season starts.

How do we protect against flu?

Flu is unpredictable. The vaccine provides the best protection available against a virus that can cause severe illness. The most likely viruses that will cause flu are identified in advance of the flu season and vaccines are then made to match them as closely as possible. The vaccines are given in the autumn ideally before flu starts circulating. During the last ten years the vaccine has generally been a good match for the circulating strains.

It is more important than ever this year to have your vaccination to protect yourself, your loved ones and the NHS, and for those on the eligible list the vaccine is provided free.

Along with seasonal bugs, slips and falls, and the flu, the NHS may also be treating patients with COVID-19 this winter. Hospitals and emergency services are likely to be busier than in previous years.

You should have the flu vaccine if you: 

  • are 65 years old or over   
  • are pregnant 
  • are an adult or child with certain conditions
  • live with someone on the shielded patient list
  • are living in a care home or other long-stay facility
  • receive a carer’s allowance, or you’re the main carer for an elderly or disabled person
  • are aged two – three
  • are in primary school, or the first year of secondary school (Year 7)
  • are a frontline health and social care worker
  • are aged 50-64 (but please note that vaccinations will be given later in the year for this group. Those at higher risk will receive their vaccine first).

The NHS will contact you directly if you are eligible, and will give you information about where to go to get the vaccine.

Why are household contacts of those on the NHS Shielded Patient List being offered flu vaccine this year?

We want to keep those who are most vulnerable to COVID-19 well this winter and we do not want them to catch flu. In order to reduce the chance of a person who has an underlying health condition catching flu from members of their household we will be offering them the flu vaccine. If you live with someone who is on the NHS Shielded Patient List, or if you expect to share accommodation with them on most days over the winter, making close contact unavoidable, then you should ask for a free flu vaccine. By having the vaccination, household contacts of the shielded can reduce their chances of getting flu and spreading it to the person they live with who is more vulnerable.

Will the flu vaccine protect me against COVID-19?

The flu vaccine won’t protect you against COVID-19. But it will help protect you against flu, which is an unpleasant and potentially serious infection that can cause complications leading to hospital admission. Helping to protect against flu is particularly important with COVID-19 in circulation because people vulnerable to COVID-19 are also at risk of complications from flu.

Is the flu vaccination safe?

The flu vaccination is safe and effective and must be given annually. It cannot give you the flu. It does not protect you from COVID-19 or seasonal coughs and colds, but it does give protection against the strains of flu virus that will be circulating this year.

Adults usually receive the flu vaccination in injection form, and children usually receive a nasal spray.

When can I get the flu vaccination?

We expect that the flu vaccination will be available from autumn 2020 onwards for those on the eligible list. You will be invited to book a vaccination appointment at around this time, but please contact your GP practice if not. It’s important that you have your vaccination as soon as possible. Please note that 50-64 year olds without any underlying health conditions will not be offered the vaccination until later in the year to ensure those at risk receive their vaccination first.

Where can I get the flu vaccination?

Many people will receive their flu vaccination at a GP surgery as usual. This year some GPs are also looking at running clinics in other additional locations to ensure they can offer the vaccine safely to as many people at risk as possible. Your practice will give clear guidance on where you need to go when you book your appointment. Other people may choose to go to a pharmacy or another location in their community. School-aged children will receive their vaccination from a trained health professional at school or in their community. Health professionals will also visit care homes to vaccinate residents and staff on-site.

Is it safe to attend appointments at health clinics?

The NHS is doing everything it can to make sure that vaccinations are given in safe environments and staff giving you your vaccination will be using the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). All possible precautions will be to taken to make sure you, and staff, are protected and safe.

There has never been a more important time to make sure you, and those you care for, are protected against serious illnesses such as the flu. Where vaccines are available, it’s vital that we use them to help keep everyone safe. Look out for updates from your local GP or NHS team and book your vaccination as soon as they are available. Get the flu vaccination, stay well and protect the NHS.

More information can be found at


Flu vaccination animations

We have created animated videos explaning why the flu vaccination is important for adults and children, you can find them below:

Flu vaccination animation – Just the Flu! Flu vaccination and why it is more important than ever this year (subtitled) :
Translated versions of this animation:
Just the Flu! – Flu vaccination & why it is important to have your child vaccinated (subtitled) :
Translated versions of this animation:

Flu vaccination flyer

We have created an A5 flyer explaining the importance of getting your flu vaccination, you can view it here.

Social media assets – English

Social media assets – Translated

The social assets below have been translated to the following languages: Arabic, Bengali, Farsi, Gujurati, Kurdish, Polish, Portoguese, Punjabi, Romanian, Somali, Tamil, and Tigrinya.

Please download the translated graphics at the links below to amplify and share on your digital channels. 

Translated leaflets – Who should have the flu vaccine and why?

This leaflet explains how you can help protect yourself and your children against flu this coming winter, and why it’s very important that people who are at increased risk from flu have their free vaccination every year.

It is available in the following languages:

Translated leaflets – Protecting your child against flu

This leaflet provides information for parents and carers on why your child should have the flu vaccine, and answers many more questions about the flu vaccine for children.

It is available in the languages below: