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Influenza Vaccination

What is flu?

Flu vaccine is offered to the following groups of people who are most at risk from the serious complications of influenza infection:

Older people

All those 65 years and over.

People with serious medical conditions

All those aged six months or over who have the following medical conditions:

Chronic Respiratory Disease

This includes diseases such as chronic bronchitis, emphysema and cystic fibrosis.  It also includes severe asthma where the person requires continuous or repeated use of inhaled or systemic steroids or has been admitted to hospital because of their asthma.  It is recommended that all children who have previously been admitted to hospital for lower respiratory tract disease should be immunised.

Chronic Heart Disease

This includes diseases such as ischaemic heart disease, congenital heart disease and hypertensive heart disease that require regular medication/and or follow-up and chronic heart failure.

Chronic Renal Disease

This includes diseases such as nephrotic syndrome, chronic renal failure and renal transplantation.

Diabetes mellitus requiring insulin or oral hypoglycaemic drugs.
Immunosuppression due to disease or treatment

This includes people who have a damaged or no spleen and people who are on immunosuppressant treatment or high doses of systemic steroids.

GPs may also advise patients with chronic liver disease to have the flu vaccine
People living in residential care homes

Flu vaccine should be given to people living in long-stay residential care homes, where flu is likely to spread very quickly and cause serious illness for many people living in the care home.

People who are the main carer for an elderly or disabled person.

Flu vaccines may be given to people who are the main carer for an elderly or disabled person so that they can continue to look after that person.

Influenza (flu) is a highly infectious disease caused by influenza viruses.  There are three types of influenza virus: A, B and C. Influenza A and B viruses cause virtually all of the clinical illness.  The symptoms of influenza C infection are usually mild. Flu occurs every year mainly during the winter months.

The influenza virus attacks the respiratory tract (the ear, nose and throat).  The virus is mainly spread by respiratory droplets in the air produced by coughing or sneezing.  It can also be spread by, for example, hand to eye contact after touching the respiratory droplets on another person or object.  The incubation period before onset of symptoms is between one and three days.
Flu generally lasts up to a week, during which time a person usually feels sufficiently unwell to stay in bed.  A cough and malaise may persist for several days up to a few weeks later.
Influenza infection is different from having a cold: the symptoms of flu come on suddenly and include fever, headache, extreme tiredness and an aching body.  A dry cough, sore throat and stuffy nose are other common symptoms of the infection.
Although most people recover from flu within a week, for some people the infection is more serious and leads to complications. These illnesses may require treatment in hospital and can be life-threatening especially in the elderly, people with heart or chest disease and those in poor health.

When does the flu season start and end?

Flu occurs most often in the winter months and usually peaks between December and March, although it can start earlier.


Who is most at risk from flu?
Anyone can get flu, but it is more serious for people aged 65 years and over and people of any age with a chronic medical condition, particularly chronic respiratory and cardiac disease.  Young children have a greater risk of being infected because they will not have had the opportunity to develop immunity to the virus.