Are you eligible to get your free winter vaccines?

Viruses can change each year, so it’s important to act now and make sure that you’re protected from flu and Covid-19 if you’re in an at-risk group
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16 November 2023

As the arrival of the colder months signals the increase of illnesses circulating, making sure you’ve received the vaccines you’re eligible for is key to staying as healthy as possible.

At this time of year, more time spent indoors means germs can spread more easily, while ever-changing viruses make previous vaccinations and immunity from past illnesses less effective.

Free flu and Covid-19 vaccinations are available to those with certain health conditions, those aged 65 and over, those that are pregnant, carers, those living with someone with a weakened immune system, and frontline health and social care staff to ensure the most vulnerable are as protected as they can be.

Vaccines for seasonal flu and Covid-19 decrease the severity of symptoms, as well as reducing the likelihood of serious illness and hospitalisation, so those who are clinically at risk should make the most of the protection these jabs offer.

Who is eligible?

Many people are eligible for these free vaccines, including those aged 65 years old and above, and those above the age of six months in clinical risk groups.

The latter includes, but is not limited to, those with chronic conditions such as asthma, COPD or bronchitis, heart disease, kidney disease at stage 3, 4 or 5, liver disease, and neurological disease such as Parkinson’s or motor neurone disease, as well as diabetes and asplenia or splenic dysfunction.

People with a weakened immune system due to disease, such as HIV/AIDS, or treatment, such as cancer treatment; close contacts of immunocompromised people; and people with a BMI of 40 and above are encouraged to get vaccinated. Pregnant women are also eligible at any stage of pregnancy.

Download the NHS app

The NHS App is a simple and secure way to access a range of NHS services. You can use it to order repeat prescriptions, view your GP health record securely, get health advice and find NHS services near you.

The App is available to anyone aged 13 years or over who is registered with a GP.

Visit or download from the App Store or Google Play

Parents of most children aged two and three (by 31 August 2023) should book a flu vaccine (a quick and easy nasal spray) for their children through their GP surgery.

However, if your child is aged between six months and two years, and has a certain long-term health condition that makes them at higher risk from flu, they’ll be offered a flu vaccine injection instead of the nasal spray.

Primary and secondary school aged children (years 7-11) will be able to get the flu vaccine through their school or a community clinic.

Keep yourself 'winter strong'

Taking both vaccines gives you the best protection against severe illness, says Dr Susan Hopkins of the UKHSA
Susan Hopkins

Receiving the vaccines you’re eligible for is important. The protection provided by previous vaccines can fade over time and both the flu virus and Covid-19 are known to adapt and evade the body’s natural immunity responses. The side effects of both vaccines, which have a good safety record, are usually mild.

Over 14,000 excess deaths and tens of thousands of hospitalisations were associated with flu last winter – but the flu vaccine is estimated to have prevented a further 25,000 hospitalisations, says Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical advisor at UKHSA.

“Taking up both the flu and Covid-19 vaccines ahead of winter provides the best level of protection against severe illness – helping keep you ‘winter strong’ – and will help ease the pressure on the NHS,” Hopkins says.

Appointments and walk-ins

The NHS is offering the vaccines through booked appointments or walk-ins at thousands of sites across the country. Most people will receive both vaccines at a GP practice or a local pharmacy.

Booking your vaccines is quick and easy, and appointments usually take just a few minutes. All eligible adults can book their free flu and Covid-19 vaccinations online by visiting or on the NHS App.

Those who can’t get online can also make a booking at one of the same sites by calling 119 for free. Flu vaccinations can also be booked directly through your GP practice or local pharmacy (over 18s only).

If you are pregnant, you may be able to get the flu and Covid-19 vaccines through your local maternity service. You will be eligible at any stage of your pregnancy to help protect you and your unborn baby.

You can get both vaccines in the same visit where possible, to get protected against both viruses in just a few minutes. If this is not possible, it is better to get each vaccine as soon as you can rather than waiting.

Georgia Bondy, 29, start-up company owner, London

Georgia Bondy

Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis during lockdown, Georgia Bondy now does everything she can to protect herself against flu and Covid-19 – which is why the 29-year-old has had both vaccinations this year.

Bondy, who runs an online platform to empower chronically ill and disabled people to live well, knew that she was at risk of more serious illness if she caught Covid-19 because of her multiple sclerosis diagnosis.

“I’ve had [Covid-19] twice, and it should be worse for me than it is for other people, but I’d already had a couple of vaccinations, [so] it was much less severe than it could have been. I was very fatigued and couldn’t get up for a few days – but I wasn’t hospitalised.”

Bondy urges those who are eligible to receive their free winter flu and Covid-19 vaccinations to do so without delay. “My background is Caribbean and I understand some of the community in London are worried about vaccines. It’s totally valid to feel like getting a vaccine is a faff or you don’t want the side effects, but it’s the most sensible thing to do in the long term.

"You don’t want the long-term effects of flu or [Covid-19] to add to your condition, with extra fatigue or lung issues.”

For more information on who is eligible for the flu and Covid-19 vaccines and how to book, visit