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Flu vaccine

Overview

Flu is serious. With coronavirus (COVID-19) around it's more important than ever to get the flu vaccine this autumn to protect yourself, others and the NHS.

Self-help guide

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Who will be offered the flu vaccine

Vaccination for different groups will begin as soon as the necessary supply of vaccine becomes available. The people most at risk will be prioritised.

If you receive a letter inviting you to get the flu vaccine, please follow the instructions.

Learn about when vaccination begins for different groups

If you're 16 years old or over and not eligible for the free vaccination you can get the vaccine in many community pharmacies for a fee.

Changes to the flu vaccination this year

This year you may notice you're invited to a new location to receive your flu vaccine or the health professional giving your immunisation has changed. Depending on where you live, you may be able to get your vaccine at:

  • healthcare settings such as GP practices, hospitals or community pharmacies
  • community venues such as town halls, village halls, sports halls and secondary schools
  • drive-through or walk-through clinics

If you need to use public transport to get to your appointment, this counts as essential travel.

What happens if there's a shortage of flu vaccines?

We have enough flu vaccine doses for everyone who's eligible - around 2.4 million people.

Scotland has a good track record of delivering the flu vaccine. During the 2019/20 flu season, 74% of people over 65 were given the vaccine - a higher number than the rest of the UK, and any other EU country. This year, we expect 90% of people over 65 to be vaccinated.

However, if demand exceeds what we've planned for, the priority will be to protect the people most vulnerable to flu, based on the best clinical advice.

How will I know about getting my flu vaccination?

Most people entitled to a free flu vaccination will get a letter from their local health board. Please follow the instructions in your letter to arrange your vaccine appointment.

To find out how to get the flu vaccine in your area, answer the questions in the Self Help Guide above. If you need help with the guide, call 0800 22 44 88

The flu vaccine is the safest and most effective way to help protect against flu.

The Scottish Government is encouraging everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated.

Will I get the flu vaccine at my GP practice?

This year, flu appointments are being organised by local NHS health boards and Health and Social Care Partnerships.

Flu vaccinations are taking place differently in some areas of Scotland and may not take place at your GP practice.

The challenge is to deliver the best local vaccination programme we can while still taking precautions against coronavirus infection for staff and patients.

The need to maintain good infection prevention and control measures and proper physical distancing will make it hard for some GP practices to deliver the flu vaccine to the levels of previous years.

During the coronavirus pandemic, it's important we make sure as many people as possible who are at risk of either flu or coronavirus are vaccinated against flu.

Why haven't I been able to book an appointment by phone?

Some local health boards have received a huge volume of calls. Please try to call again at another time. You can also use the ‘How to get the flu vaccine in my area’ guide above to find out how to arrange your vaccination.

Please be assured the Scottish Government are working with NHS health boards to ensure all those eligible for the flu vaccine will receive an appointment.

It is important that everyone who is eligible for a free flu vaccine takes up this opportunity.

Why is a phased approach necessary?

Using a phased approach lets local NHS health boards prioritise vulnerable groups and those at greatest clinical risk, so that they are protected from flu as early as possible.

Will free eligibility be extended to any more groups this flu season?

Coronavirus has affected every part of public health, including world-wide vaccine supply.

This has forced the Scottish Government to make hard decisions about expanding eligibility.

The coronavirus pandemic means the current situation can change at very short notice. This approach allows NHS Scotland and the Scottish Government to adapt to change through the flu season, while always prioritising those most at risk and protecting the NHS as much as possible.

Once it's known how many people are vaccinated among groups at the greatest clinical risk, it'll be possible to look at expanding eligibility to other groups, including people aged 50-54. This will always depend on vaccine supply.

Has the flu immunisation programme been affected by the coronavirus outbreak?

The flu immunisation programme is more important than ever this year, to help protect the most vulnerable and, at the same time, support the NHS.

Vaccination of eligible people, as well as social care workers delivering direct personal care and household members of those shielding, began on 1 October.

Those with existing eligibility for the flu vaccine are:

  • those aged 65 and over
  • those who have an eligible health condition
  • pregnant women
  • health care workers
  • young and unpaid carers
  • children aged 2-5 (and not yet at school)
  • primary school children

Flu symptoms

Flu symptoms come on very quickly and can include symptoms such as:

  • fever (temperature above 37.8°C)
  • aches
  • dry, chesty cough
  • tiredness or exhaustion
  • headache

More about the symptoms of flu or visit our the Self-help guide about Flu-like illness.

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