Can I have a flu jab if I have MS?
This year, all UK nations are again running an expanded flu vaccination programme to encourage more people to have a flu jab and allow more people to have the flu jab for free. With Covid-19 still circulating in the community, a surge in seasonal influenza (flu) cases could overwhelm hospitals and other NHS services.
Flu can be a serious or even fatal illness, and each year causes thousands of people to become very ill. Like Covid-19, it is a viral infection that can be passed on through coughs and sneezes. If you have MS, you’re more at risk of becoming seriously ill from flu, even if you currently feel well.
By having the flu jab, you reduce your risk of having flu. If you do catch flu after having the vaccine, you are likely to have a milder illness. Having the flu jab also means you are less likely to have flu and Covid-19 at the same time, which could make you more unwell. It is best to have your flu vaccine early, so that you are protected before any outbreaks of flu. You need a new jab each year, as the strains of flu that are circulating change over time.
People with MS can have the flu jab for free every year. It is provided through pharmacies and GP surgeries, as well as workplaces and schools. You may be contacted by your surgery if you have been offered a flu jab in previous years.
You may be offered your flu jab at the same time as a Covid-19 vaccine booster dose. Research has shown that this is safe, and that both the flu vaccine and the Covid-19 vaccine remain effective when given together.
Who can have the flu jab for free?
This year, the free vaccination is being offered to:
- adults aged 50 and over (people over 65 will be offered a flu jab first)
- people with some medical conditions, including MS
- the main carer of an older or disabled person
- people who were required to shield from coronavirus – and anyone they live with
- pregnant women
- children aged from two to 17
- health and social care workers
- Anyone living in a residential or care home.
Almost everyone can have the vaccine, but you should not be vaccinated if you have ever had a serious allergy to the vaccine or any of its ingredients. Some formulations of the flu vaccine contain traces of egg. If you have a fever, you should wait until you feel better before having your flu jab.
Children are normally given a live vaccine in the form of a nasal spray. Children who are immunocompromised, have asthma, severe allergies to egg or the vaccine ingredients, or are currently wheezy may be offered an alternative injected vaccine.
Children who have had the nasal spray flu vaccine should avoid immunocompromised people for at least 2 weeks after they have the vaccine. If there is an immunocompromised person in their household then any children in the household should have an inactivated injected flu vaccine instead. The NHS information on children and the flu vaccine lists the vaccine ingredients and potential side effects of both injected and nasal flu vaccines.
If you have other questions or concerns about the flu jab and MS, you can read more details in our A-Z page on the flu jab. This page has information about the safety and effectiveness of the flu vaccine for people with MS, and details about the possible side effects you might notice.
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