In a year like no other, more of us than ever before are wondering 'where can I get the flu jab near me?' as many people haven't been told about the new scheme rolled out by the government in 2020.
So if you’re one of the thousands who are wondering ‘where can I get the flu jab near me?’ then don’t worry as you’re certainly not the only one. While the common flu is dangerous to those with underlying health conditions all year round, it’s become an additional and deadly threat to public health this year, as a double infection of flu and coronavirus could see the risk of death more than double.
According to new research by Public Health England (PHE), people infected with both flu and COVID-19 are more than twice as likely to die as someone with coronavirus alone. These findings came after analysis was done by the health body on cases from January to April this year. The results also determined that people infected with the two viruses were more likely to at risk of severe illness.
The data was published as it was revealed that 30 million people would be targeted with a new flu vaccination programme in England, to vaccinate more people than before in advance of the winter months. Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Jonathan Van-Tam said in a Public Health England briefing, “There is now some emerging evidence which clearly suggests that co-infection with influenza and COVID-19 produces bad outcomes. One of these diseases is currently vaccine preventable, and that’s the really important point.”
On top of this, a heavy flu season combined with coronavirus might overwhelm the NHS and if lots of medical staff are sick with the flu, they would be unable to deal with coronavirus in its second wave with the same effectiveness they had earlier in the year. There has also been worries as coronavirus is worse than the flu and the double hit of coronavirus and the flu doubles the chance of serious illness or even death.
So while there has been an upsurge in the number people getting tested for coronavirus, some health officials argue that more needs to be done to combat the double risk that is incoming this winter. The flu vaccine is the answer, while the Pfizer vaccine enters more trials before distribution.
The flu vaccine has been offered for free in previous years to try and limit the number of people who contract the virus, but the qualifying criteria has now changed to include more people around the country. So with that in mind and no coronavirus vaccine confirmed for this year, this is how to find a flu vaccine near you.
Where can I get the flu jab near me?
To get the flu jab, you can make an appointment with your GP but it’s not necessary. To be vaccinated against the flu, you should contact your local pharmacy instead who will also be offering the service as a priority. To find a local pharmacy near you, you can use the handy tool at MyVaccinations.co.uk.
This is where you can get the flu jab near you:
- Midwifery service if you’re pregnant
- Your local pharmacy
- Lloyds Pharmacies
Some people are able to receive the flu vaccination on the NHS, as they have other health conditions or are more exposed to the viruses that make people at risk. If this is you and you receive reminder from your GP about being vaccinated, then don’t worry about telling them if you choose to have it done at a pharmacy as the pharmacist should tell them.
Where to get the private flu jab
If you already know that you’re not entitled to the free vaccine on the NHS, then you can book an appointment through a site like PatientAccess. On the site, you will be pointed in the direction of local pharmacies offering the service at a fee. It’s normally around £12.99 but some offer the service for more.
Flu vaccines are also being offered in areas that are under new restrictions in the three tier system, so they are available across England. To book one, head to your local pharmacy or clinic but be sure to call ahead. Demand is higher than ever this year, even with the big roll-out and some pharmacies have already sold out of the vaccine. Once there, you’ll be offered the standard flu jab which protects again the four most common strains of flu this year as an injection, which goes into the upper arm.
At local pharmacies such as Boots or Superdrug, you’ll also be able to get the vaccine for free if you’re eligible so always check in advance and be sure to let the pharmacy or clinic know.
Who is eligible for the flu vaccine?
While anyone can get the flu vaccine, there are only certain people who are able to get it for free. Amongst others, these include those over 65 and with underlying health conditions.
You are eligible for the free flu vaccine if you are:
- 65 or over (including those who will be 65 by March 31 2021)
- Experiencing certain health conditions
- Living in long-stay residential care
- Receiving a carer’s allowance or are the main carer for an older or disabled person who is at risk if you get sick
- Living with someone who’s at high risk from coronavirus (i.e. on the NHS shielding list)
- A frontline health or social worker
However, there are now new conditions under which you can receive the vaccine for free. PHE has confirmed, “More than 30 million people will be offered a free vaccine this flu season. Newly eligible households include: households of those on the shielded patient list, children in year 7, people aged 50 to 64 later in the year.”
It is also thought that children over six months with a long-term health condition, as well as those children aged two and three and those in all school years up to and including year seven are able to get the vaccine for free.
Those with the following medical conditions can get the flu vaccine for free in 2020:
- Respiratory conditions, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Coronary heart disease or heart failure
- Chronic kidney disease
- Liver disease
- Neurological conditions, like Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS) or cerebral palsy
- Learning disabilities
- Sickle cell disease and other spleen problems
- HIV, AIDS and other conditions that weaken the immune system
- If you are taking medicines such as steroid tablets or having chemotherapy
When will the flu vaccine be available?
The NHS advises that the best time to have the flu vaccine is in the winter months, any time from October to the end of November. However this year, the vaccine will be made available from September for all those who qualify.
Last year, 25 million people were offered the flu vaccine and only 15 million people took up the offer. The government hopes that by offering the vaccine to 5 million more people this year and extending it to more people, it will be more successful and help to protect the NHS in the winter.
How effective is the flu vaccine?
Overall, the flu vaccine is 42.7% effective in preventing the virus, according to Public Health England. But in recent years, the flu vaccine in the UK has been 63% effective for those aged between 18 and 64 years old. This is the age group that has seen the most protection from the vaccine, as the effectiveness tends to decrease with age.
This is only one type of flu vaccine, however, and there are multiple that could be administered depending on age group. The LAIV flu vaccine for example, suitable only for those aged between two and 17 years old, is thought to be over 45% effective.
The flu jab and pregnancy: What you need to know
The NHS advises that if you are pregnant, you should have the flu vaccine to protect both you and the baby. They also say that it is safe to have the flu vaccine at any stage of pregnancy, adding that pregnant women have a higher chance of developing complications if they get the flu in the later stages of pregnancy. These complications are often related to bronchitis, a chest infection that can become serious and develop into pneumonia.
So it’s best to be avoided, if possible, as if pregnant women contract the flu then the NHS advises that it could cause the baby to be born prematurely or have a low birthweight. It could even lead to stillbirth or death.
Is there anyone who shouldn’t have the flu vaccine?
As with all medical decisions, if you are unsure then you should consult your GP. But largely, those who shouldn’t have the flu vaccine include people who have had a serious allergic reaction to the jab in the past but this does not include instances of the flu. Instead, allergies to the vaccine are often the result of an egg allergy as some are made using eggs. It is possible to receive a vaccine with low-egg or egg-free content.
For both the physical exposure to other people and the vaccine itself, if you are displaying a high temperature or other symptoms of coronavirus then it’s better to hang off and self-isolate before having the vaccine.
Flu and the flu jab: What are the side effects?
The NHS has emphasised how the flu vaccine cannot give you the flu, as none of them contain live viruses so cannot physically make you unwell. So if you experience illness after the vaccintion, it’s likely something else or you caught the virus before the vaccination. But other side effects of the vaccine can include:
- A slightly raised temperature
- Muscle aches
- Sore arm where the needle entered (but this is more common to those aged 65 or over)
In comparison to the effects of the actual flu, these side effects are very mild. So if you are wondering whether you should get the flu vaccine this year rather than ‘where can I get the flu jab near me?’ then the evidence suggests that in a period of combined flu and coronavirus season, it’s the safest option to lower your risk of either virus.