NHS flu campaign: Carers are eligible for a FREE vaccine.

Flu vaccine for carers

If you're the main carer for someone who's elderly or disabled, speak to a GP or pharmacist about having a flu vaccine along with the person you care for.

When to have a flu vaccine

The best time to have a flu vaccine is in the autumn, from the beginning of October to the end of November.

But do not worry if you have missed it, as you can have the vaccine later in winter. Ask a GP or pharmacist.

Flu is an unpredictable virus that can be unpleasant, but if you're otherwise healthy it'll usually clear up on its own within a week.

It can cause severe illness and even death among vulnerable groups, including older people, pregnant women and people with an underlying health condition.

Types of flu vaccine available

There are several types of flu vaccine.

You'll be offered 1 that's most effective for you, depending on your age:

  • children aged 2 to 17 in an eligible group are offered a live attenuated quadrivalent vaccine (LAIV), given as a nasal spray
  • adults aged 18 to 64 who are pregnant, at increased risk from flu because of a long-term health condition, or a frontline health or social care worker are offered a quadrivalent injected vaccine – the vaccine offered will have been grown either in eggs or cells (QIVe or QIVc), both of which are considered to be equally suitable
  • adults aged 65 and over will be offered either an adjuvanted trivalent injected vaccine grown in eggs (aTIV) or a cell-grown quadrivalent injected vaccine (QIVc) – both vaccines are considered to be equally suitable
  • If your child is aged between 6 months and 2 years and is in a high-risk group for flu, they'll be offered an injected flu vaccine as the nasal spray is not licensed for children under 2.

Talk to a GP, practice nurse or pharmacist for more information about these vaccines.

Learning disabilities

People with learning disabilities are eligible to receive a flu vaccination under the Community Pharmacy Flu Vaccination Advanced Service, as learning disabilities are categorised as a neurological condition.

A person with learning disabilities will have:

  • a significantly reduced ability to understand new or complex information and to learn new skills (impaired intelligence);
  • a reduced ability to cope independently (impaired social functioning);
  • which started before adulthood, with a lasting effect on development.

This does not include conditions like dyslexia, which cause a specific difficulty with one type of skill but not a wider intellectual impairment.

Nasal spray vaccine

When someone with learning disabilities who is anxious about needles requires a blood test or an injection there should always be consideration of less invasive alternatives. This would include the use of the nasal spray flu vaccine.


The live intranasal influenza vaccine is given as a single spray squirted up each nostril. This has the advantage of being needle-free and for children it is more effective than the injected flu vaccine. This is not licensed for adults, as there is evidence it may be less effective than the injected inactivated vaccine. However, guidance for healthcare workers says that medical practitioners can choose to use the nasal spray “off-label” and that this can be for “patients with learning difficulties who become seriously distressed with needles”. PHE has agreed that the national stock of the nasal spray flu can be used for this purpose but it needs to be individually prescribed using a Patient Specific Direction (PSD).

Should you bother?

From BBC article: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-49895681

About 30 million people - nearly half the UK population - are being offered the flu vaccine, in the biggest winter vaccination campaign the NHS has seen.

"Prof Yvonne Doyle, of Public Health England, urged people to come forward for the vaccine - the NHS was able to vaccinate less than half of those in some of the target groups last year.

"Some people think the flu is like the common cold. It's not. It can be a really serious illness and can be deadly for some," she said.

About 1,700 deaths last year were linked to flu.

Dr Jim McMenamin, of Health Protection Scotland, said: "Getting the vaccine only takes a few minutes and helps to provide protection from flu for around a year."