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The flu vaccine

Flu (influenza) is a common infectious respiratory illness. You can catch flu all year round, but it's especially common in winter. This year our immunity to flu may be lower than usual.

The flu vaccine is the safest and most effective way to help protect against flu. It will also help reduce the risk of spreading flu to others.

It’s likely that flu viruses and the virus that causes coronavirus (COVID-19) will both be spreading this autumn and winter. Flu is a respiratory virus so it has similar symptoms to coronavirus.

Who will be offered the flu vaccine

The people most at risk from flu will be prioritised for the vaccine.

The following groups of people are recommended to have the free flu vaccine this year:

Visit the child flu page for more information about the flu vaccine for children.

NHS Scotland recommends you get the vaccine as soon as it is offered to you.

When and how will I be invited for my flu vaccination?

If you are eligible, you can use this guide to find out when and how you will be invited for your flu vaccination. Some people eligible for the flu vaccine may also be eligible for a coronavirus booster vaccination.

If you're eligible for both the flu and coronavirus booster vaccines, but have only received one of them so far, you can book an appointment to receive the other vaccine. You can have your next vaccine any time after the first, as long as your coronavirus booster dose is at least 6 months (24 weeks) after the date of your second coronavirus dose.

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Why should I get vaccinated?

The flu vaccine is a safe and effective vaccine, and gives the best protection against flu. It’s offered every year for free by the NHS to help protect people at risk of flu and its complications.

Flu vaccines help protect against the main types of flu viruses, although there’s still a chance you might get flu after having the vaccine. If you do get flu after vaccination, it’s likely to be milder and not last as long.

Having the flu vaccine will also stop you spreading flu to other people who may be more at risk of serious problems from flu.

Flu can be serious and life-threatening, so getting vaccinated is the safest and most effective way to protect yourself.

The vaccine takes around 10 days to work and should help protect you during this year’s flu season. You have to get immunised every year because flu viruses change constantly and your immunity reduces over time.

The flu vaccine can’t give you flu, but it can stop you catching it.

Which vaccines are used?

The following vaccines are routinely used in Scotland for people aged 18 years and over:

This year, the Adjuvanted Quadrivalent Influenza Vaccine (aQIV) is being offered to people aged 65 or over. This vaccine contains a substance, known as an adjuvant, to help to stimulate the immune system and create a better response.

This vaccine has been widely used in many other countries and has been shown to offer better and longer-lasting protection in older people than flu vaccines without an adjuvant.

If you have an egg allergy

Some of the flu vaccines are made using eggs.

It’s important that you tell the person giving you your vaccine if you have an egg allergy or if you’ve ever had a serious allergic reaction to a flu vaccine.

If you're affected, please speak to your health professional for advice. An egg-free vaccine may be available.

Vaccine side effects

As with all medicines, side effects of the flu vaccine are possible, but usually mild.

More about flu vaccine side effects

Vaccine safety

All medicines (including vaccines) are tested for safety and effectiveness before they're allowed to be used.

Once they're in use, the safety of vaccines continues to be monitored by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Flu vaccine explainer video

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