Every year the flu vaccine saves lives by stopping thousands of people from becoming seriously ill from flu. This page will help you understand more about the flu jab and how to access it.
Flu is an infectious viral illness, which can be very serious. Some people, including people with dementia, are more at risk of becoming seriously ill from flu and needing hospital treatment. Every year, flu causes thousands of deaths in the UK.
The flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself against the flu, and keep you well. It also helps to stop it spreading from person to person.
Remaining as fit and healthy as possible is even more important for someone with dementia. The better they feel, the better life will be for them and those around them.
Who can have the flu jab for free?
Every autumn the NHS advises certain people to have their annual flu vaccination. This is to protect those who may have a higher risk of becoming seriously ill if they catch the flu.
Free flu vaccines are now being offered to adults who:
are 65 and over (including those who will be 65 by 31 March 2023)
are living in a care home
have certain long-term health conditions (for example, heart disease, diabetes, or Parkinson’s disease)
receive a carer's allowance, or are the main carer for an older or disabled person.
Starting from mid-October 2022, people aged 50 years old or over (including those who will be 50 years old by 31 March 2023) can also have a free NHS flu vaccine.
Even though these groups include almost everyone with dementia, your GP will use their judgement and make a decision with you about having the vaccine. A few people may be advised not to have it because of allergies or other reasons.
Flu jab and coronavirus
It’s important for people who are at higher risk of severe Covid to have their free flu jab. This is because:
- if you're at higher risk from coronavirus, you're also at higher risk of problems from flu
- if you get flu and coronavirus at the same time, you're much more likely to become seriously ill
- the flu vaccine helps keep people out of hospital, which helps reduce pressure on the NHS and social care as they support people with coronavirus.
It's safe to have the flu vaccine whether or not you have had Covid. You may be offered your flu vaccine at the same time as your Covid booster vaccine. It is safe to have both at the same time.
Where and when can I get the flu vaccine?
The flu vaccine is available for free on the NHS to people who are most at risk, most commonly from your GP or care home.
You can also get it at local pharmacies that offer this service. If you are not eligible for the free vaccine or want to get it sooner, you can pay to have it at your local pharmacy instead. Expect to pay under £20.
The NHS advises that autumn is the best time to have a flu vaccine, but you can also have it later in winter. The sooner you have the vaccine, the sooner you will be protected.
I had a flu jab last year. Do I need another one?
Yes. Flu strains change often, which is why a new flu vaccine is made every year. This means people affected by dementia need a flu vaccine every year too.
Although people who have a flu vaccination do sometimes still get the flu, it’s usually milder and doesn’t last as long as it would have otherwise.
Will a flu jab stop me catching coronavirus?
No, you will need to have the Covid vaccine to protect yourself from coronavirus (COVID-19).
This blog was first published in October 2018 and most recently updated in September 2023.
More about the flu vaccination
More guidance about the flu vaccination can be found on the GOV.UK website, available in English and many other languages.