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Why everyone affected by dementia should take up an offer of the flu jab

Flu vaccination, or the flu jab, is available every year on the NHS. Here's why it's important that all people affected by dementia take up an offer to have this vaccine.

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 severely ill (for example, getting pneumonia) if they catch flu. A vaccine provides you with immunity to the flu virus and also helps you to stop it spreading. 

The flu jab won’t protect you from catching coronavirus

Higher-risk adults who are routinely offered the flu jab by the NHS include people aged over 65, or living in a care home, or who have a long-term condition (for example, heart disease, diabetes or Parkinson’s disease).  

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. 

Every year the flu vaccine saves lives by stopping thousands of people from getting flu. 

Why it matters for people affected by dementia

This year is a bit different from normal because of coronavirus. It’s more important than ever that people who are at higher risk of having severe COVID-19 symptoms take up the offer of getting their free flu shot. This is because: 

  • if you're at higher risk from coronavirus, you're also more at risk of problems from flu 
  • if you get flu and coronavirus at the same time, you're much more likely to become seriously ill 
  • it will help reduce pressure on the NHS and social care, who may be supporting lots of people with coronavirus.

If you've already had COVID-19, it's safe to have the flu vaccine. 

This year free flu vaccines will be offered more widely than ever before. After vaccination of people at the highest risk (as above) has begun, people aged 50–64 – as well as carers of people at higher risk – will be offered a free flu jab too (often for the first time).  

Where and when can I get the flu vaccine?

The flu vaccine is available for free on the NHS to people who are at risk, most commonly from your GP.

You can also get it at local pharmacies that offer this service. If you are not eligible or feel you cannot wait for this, you can pay to have the flu vaccine at your local pharmacy instead. Expect to pay about £8 to £12.  

The NHS advises that autumn is the best time to have a flu vaccine, but you can also have it later in winter. 

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. To protect yourself and others from coronavirus, follow our advice on good hygiene and social distancing. Researchers are working hard on a coronavirus vaccine. Visit our page on that for more. 

This blog was first published in October 2018, and most recently updated in October 2020.

More about the flu vaccination

More guidance about the flu vaccination can be found on the NHS website, available in English and many other languages.

Read NHS guidance
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