Flu (also known as influenza) is a viral illness that affects your lungs and upper airways. It is highly infectious and can lead to serious complications for some people. However, an annual flu vaccine can help to protect you.
This information applies to the 2023/2024 flu vaccination programme. You can read more about this programme on the HSE website.
Can I get the flu vaccine?
You can get a free flu vaccine if you are:
- Aged from 2 to 12
- Aged 65 and over
- A healthcare worker
- Living in a nursing home or other long-term care facility
- In regular contact with pigs, poultry or waterfowl
- Aged over 6 months and have one of these medical conditions
- A household contact or carer for somebody with one of the above medical conditions
The vaccine for children is given by nasal spray rather than injection. Young people aged 13 to 17 can also get the free nasal spray vaccine if they are at risk from the flu. Read more about the flu vaccine for children aged 2 to 17.
If you are eligible for a free flu vaccine, you will need to provide your PPS number at your flu vaccine appointment.
You can get your COVID-19 booster and flu vaccine at the same time.
What is flu?
There are different types (or ‘strains’) of flu virus that go around each year. You should get a new flu vaccine every flu season to make sure you are protected. The flu season runs from October until April every year.
If you are infected with flu, you can spread it to other people by coughing or sneezing. You can also spread flu by touching surfaces without washing your hands.
You can infect other people from 1-2 days before your symptoms develop, and up to 5 days after your symptoms develop. Read the differences between the symptoms of flu and COVID-19.
Who is most at risk?
Flu can affect you at any age, but some people are more at risk and are strongly advised to get the flu vaccine.
The flu vaccine is free for people that are more at risk (listed above).
How to get the flu vaccine
You can usually get your annual flu vaccine from your:
- GP (family doctor)
- Local pharmacist (subject to availability)
- Occupational health department
If you do not have a GP, you can find a GP in your area.
When to get the flu vaccine
The flu vaccine is usually available from early October until late April every year.
It will protect you against the most common strains of flu going around each winter. As strains of flu change every year, you should get a new flu vaccine every flu season.
When you get the flu vaccine, your immune system will start to produce antibodies. Then, if you come into contact with the flu virus, these antibodies will fight it and stop you from getting sick.
The flu vaccine does not contain live viruses – this means it cannot give you flu.
Flu vaccine during pregnancy
If you are pregnant, you should get the flu vaccine as soon as possible. This is because pregnant people are more at risk of complications from flu.
If you are pregnant through two flu seasons (for example, your pregnancy goes from the end of one flu season to the beginning of another), you may need to get two flu vaccines (one in each flu season). Read more about the flu vaccine during pregnancy.
You may be able to get the flu vaccine on the same day as the whooping cough vaccine.
Cost of the flu vaccine
If you are in one of the at-risk groups, you can get your flu vaccine for free. The free flu vaccine includes people aged 65 and over for the 2023/2024 flu season.
If you do not fall into one of the at-risk groups, check the cost with your GP or pharmacist.