Flu (Influenza)

The annual flu vaccine protects people over 65, those who have health conditions and pregnant women, against the strains of flu virus that are likely to be circulating each winter flu season.

For information about the new childhood flu immunisation programme in Scotland, visit our Child flu page

What is flu?

Flu is much more than a bad cold. It’s a virus which can make even healthy people feel very unwell. In the most serious cases, flu can bring on pneumonia, or other serious infections which can, in extreme cases, result in death.

In Scotland the flu season usually begins as the weather gets colder, so get the vaccine as soon as you can. It is available from October through to the end of March. But remember, during the flu season it’s never too soon to get vaccinated.

Flu is often spread through the air by coughs and sneezes. It can also be caught by coming into contact with contaminated surfaces.


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Who needs the flu vaccination?

Anyone who suffers from a health condition, who is pregnant or who is 65 or over, should get the flu vaccine.

If you have a health condition, flu can hit you hardest. The vaccine is the safest and most effective way of protecting yourself.

Conditions and diseases which can make flu much more dangerous include:

  • asthma
  • bronchitis
  • emphysema
  • cystic fibrosis
  • chronic heart disease
  • chronic kidney failure
  • multiple sclerosis
  • liver problems (such as cirrhosis/hepatitis)
  • diabetes
  • HIV infection.

If you have any of these conditions, even if you feel fit and healthy, flu can still seriously affect you. So, it’s worthwhile getting the vaccine to avoid unnecessary worry for you and those close to you.

If you are pregnant, you are at greater risk of complications from flu. Having the vaccine now could help you avoid catching flu and protect your baby.

If you have children who suffer from any of the conditions above, they should be vaccinated too.

Anyone undergoing chemotherapy or radiotherapy treatment should also get vaccinated.

Unpaid carers of any age, including young carers, are also eligible for the flu vaccine.


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How does the flu vaccine work?

The vaccine takes around 10 days to work and should protect you from flu for around a year. You have to get vaccinated annually because the virus changes constantly and your immunity reduces over time. Last year’s vaccine won’t necessarily protect you from this year’s flu viruses.

The flu vaccine can’t give you flu, but it can stop you catching it.

For the maximum protection possible, make sure you get vaccinated every year. 


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Where do I get the flu vaccination?

Simply contact your GP surgery to arrange an appointment. The flu vaccine is free to everyone in Scotland with a health condition, who is pregnant or who is 65 or over.

You want to get on with life without worrying about catching flu. So arrange your vaccination as soon as you can.


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Last reviewed on 19 August 2014