Information for people over 65 or those with health conditions

Scotland's Chief Medical and Chief Nursing Officers recommend anyone with an underlying health condition (no matter how young they are or how fit and healthy they normally feel) and people over 65 have the vaccine every year.

Over the last ten years, the flu vaccine has generally been a good match for the circulating strains of flu so you can be confident being vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself against a virus which can cause serious illness. Even when it is not as well matched, if you do develop flu, symptoms may be less severe and you may be less likely to develop complications requiring you to see your GP or being admitted to hospital. 

Four reasons to get the vaccine:

  1. Every year in Scotland, around two thirds of people who get severe flu and need intensive care treatment have a health condition such as chronic lung or heart disease.
  2. Adults with a health condition are more at risk of flu-related complications and need extra protection. Even if you’re young, fit and healthy, and your condition is normally under control.
  3. If you’re aged 65 or over you should also get extra protection.
  4. It’s the safest and most effective way of protecting yourself.

Questions and answers:

Who is eligible? 

Anyone with a health condition is at particular risk from flu. No matter how young you are or how fit and healthy you normally feel, and whether your health condition is normally under control. Anyone over 65 years should also be immunised. 

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Why is the flu vaccine recommended for people over 65 and those with underlying health conditions?

Anyone with a health condition is at particular risk from flu. Conditions and diseases which make flu more dangerous include:

  • Asthma
  • Bronchitis
  • Emphysema
  • cystic fibrosis
  • chronic heart disease
  • chronic kidney failure
  • multiple sclerosis
  • liver problems such as cirrhosis/hepatitis
  • diabetes
  • asplenia or dysfunction of the spleen
  • being very overweight
  • HIV infection

Anyone undergoing chemotherapy treatment should also get vaccinated. Anyone 65 years or over should also be immunised. If you are under 18 years, have a health condition or care for someone who does, you should also get vaccinated. You may be eligible to have the vaccine as a nasal (nose) spray. For more information visit: the childhood flu page

 If you provide care for someone, you may also be eligible for the flu vaccine. Speak to your GP or nurse for more information.

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How does the flu vaccine work? 

The vaccine takes around 10 days to work and will protect you against this year’s flu. You have to get immunised 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. It’s important to remember that the flu vaccine can’t give you flu, but can stop you catching it.

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

It won’t make you infectious, so it’s safe to carry on with your normal duties once you’ve been immunised.

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Where can I get the immunisation? 

The flu vaccine is available from October to March. The earlier you get it, the less likely it is that you will get flu.

Simply contact your GP practice to make an appointment. It only takes a few minutes to get immunised and could help to keep you well over the winter.

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Is the vaccine safe?

The Scottish Government has no safety concerns about the vaccines used in the seasonal flu programme. As with all medicines used in Scotland, the influenza vaccines undergo rigorous safety testing by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), and no new concerns were reported. The MHRA continues to monitor the safety of these vaccines.

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Last reviewed on 19 September 2016

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