Influenza (flu) is an infectious virus and can be serious. Symptoms may include a fever, a cough, a headache and tiredness. The virus spreads through the air when people cough or sneeze, or when they touch surfaces where the virus has landed then touch their eyes, nose or mouth. You can catch flu all year round, but it's especially common in winter. It can be serious, even if you're healthy.
How does the flu vaccine work?
Flu vaccines help protect against the main types of flu viruses. It works by teaching your body's immune system how to protect itself from flu.
You have to get vaccinated every year because flu viruses are constantly changing. A different vaccine is made every year to ensure the best protection against flu.
How is the flu vaccine given?
The flu vaccine will be given as an injection in the upper arm.
You only need one dose of the flu vaccine each flu season. It takes around 10 days for the vaccine to work, so you should get the vaccine when you are offered it.
The flu vaccine is a safe and effective vaccine.
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).
More information on the vaccines, including the ingredients:
What are the side effects of the flu vaccine?
It's normal to experience side effects after the vaccine. It shows the vaccine is teaching your body's immune system how to protect itself from the disease, however, not everyone gets them.
Read about the side effects of the flu vaccine
Are there any reasons you should not get the vaccine?
Most adults can have the flu vaccine, but you should avoid it if you’ve had a serious allergic reaction to a flu vaccine in the past, or if you are allergic to any of the vaccine ingredients.
You may be at risk of an allergic reaction to the flu vaccine if you have an egg allergy. This is because some 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.
Who will be offered the flu vaccine
You'll be offered the flu vaccine this year if you're:
- aged 50 years or over (or will be by 31 March 2024)
- a resident or staff working in a care home for older adults
- a younger adult in long stay nursing and residential care settings
- a health or social care worker
- aged 6 months to 2 years with an eligible health condition
- aged 2 to 5 years not yet at school (children must be aged 2 years or above on 1 September 2023 to be eligible)
- a primary or secondary school pupil
- aged 5 to 49 years with an eligible health condition
- aged 5 to 49 years and are a household contact of someone with a weakened immune system
- an unpaid carer or a young carer
- a nursery, primary or secondary school teacher or a pupil-facing support staff in local authority or independent setting
- part of the prison population, a prison officer, or support staff who delivers direct front-facing detention services
If you're an eligible health or social care worker, you can drop in at any winter vaccine clinic to get vaccinated. You don't need an appointment.
NHS Scotland recommends you get the vaccine as soon as it's offered to you.
If you have a confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) infection, please don't attend your vaccination appointment. You can rearrange it online.
Eligible health conditions
People with certain health conditions are at greater risk from flu.
If you feel your condition or medication does not appear on the list, please talk to the clinician that manages your condition. They may be able to refer you to your NHS Board for vaccination if appropriate.
Anyone undergoing chemotherapy treatment or on medication that reduces their immunity is at higher risk and should get immunised.
If you’re under 18 years old and have an eligible health condition (or care for someone who does) you should also get the vaccine.
More about the child flu vaccine