Every year in Scotland, thousands of people are hospitalised with flu.

Flu can be easily spread by those with little or no symptoms at all. Getting the flu jab not only helps protect the individual getting vaccinated, it also reduces the risk of spreading it to others.

Each year, seasonal flu adds pressure to NHS services at a time when demand is at its peak. It is particularly important this year that people are immunised against flu to help protect our NHS and avoid the pressure that a spike in seasonal flu cases would put on top of COVID-19.

This year the vaccine is being offered to more people than ever to address the additional risk posed by coronavirus (COVID-19).

In order to vaccinate more people safely, where you go to get your vaccine may be different from in previous years and may not be at a GP surgery. In addition, vaccination for the different groups will be staggered this year with those most at risk being prioritised.

Information in accessible formats

These BSL videos and these audio leaflets explain why it's important to get the flu vaccine if you have a health condition or over 65 years old or are pregnant. NHS Inform also provide information in a range of languages

Flu symptoms and vaccine advice

Flu symptoms come on very quickly and can include symptoms such as:

Flu immunisation nurse in hub

  • fever (temperature above 37.8°C)
  • aches
  • dry, chesty cough
  • tiredness or exhaustion
  • headache

To find out more visit NHS Inform for a self-help guide on flu.

The flu vaccine

The vaccine takes around 10 days to work and should help protect you from flu for around a year. You have to get immunised every year because flu viruses change constantly and your immunity reduces over time.

The flu vaccine can’t give you flu, but it can stop you catching it.

To find out more about this year’ vaccine,
visit the NHS Inform website.

Straight after getting the vaccine

As with all medicines, side effects of the flu vaccine are possible, but usually mild and may include:

  • injection site tenderness, swelling and/or redness
  • headache
  • muscle ache
  • Fever (temperature above 37.8°C).

If someone develops fever post vaccination, this would normally be within the first 48 hours following vaccination AND usually resolve within 48 hours. This is a relatively common, expected reaction, and self-isolation and testing for COVID-19 are not required unless COVID is suspected based on other clinical criteria such as cough and/or anosmia.

Feeling generally unwell, shivery, achy and tired are also commonly reported symptoms following flu vaccination.

These symptoms usually disappear within one to two days without treatment but paracetamol can be given if necessary to relieve any of these symptoms.

As has always been recommended, any fever after vaccination should be monitored and if individuals, parents or carers are concerned about their, or their child’s health at any time, they should seek advice from their GP or NHS 111.

48 hours or more after getting the flu vaccine

If fever starts beyond 48 hours post vaccination OR persists beyond 48 hours or an individual develops other COVID-19 related symptoms, then they should self-isolate
and be recommended to have a test for COVID-19. Testing for COVID-19 may also be considered at any time following clinical assessment, or if there are other epidemiological indications such as being a close contact of a case or part of a cluster.

More information on the possible side effects of the flu vaccine can be found on the NHS Inform website.

National Flu Vaccination Programme

The 2020 seasonal flu vaccination programme is now underway. We recommend that eligible people protect themselves and others and get the free flu vaccination this year.

Having your flu vaccine is so important because:

  • Flu is very infectious.  It can be serious and life threatening. Last year thousands of people in Scotland are hospitalised with flu.
  • The flu vaccine is the most effective way to protect yourself.   It’s very safe, does not give you flu and only takes a few minutes.
  • It is important to get the vaccine each year as the flu virus changes, and immunity reduces over time.
  • Some people are at greater risk from the effects of flu and should get the vaccine.

Who is entitled to a free flu jab?

The flu jab is offered free to the many thousands of people in Fife within ‘at risk’ groups. This includes people who meet the following criteria:

  • Everyone aged 65 and over;
  • People with eligible health conditions;

If you are in one of the above groups you will receive a letter in the post in the coming weeks inviting you to make an appointment at one of our community vaccination clinics. Please do not call to arrange an appointment until you have received a letter.

In addition, the following groups are also eligible for a free flu vaccination:-

  • Children in primary school
  • Children aged 2 to 5 years who are not yet in school
  • Household members of people who were shielding
  • Young/unpaid carers
  • Those who work in health or social care

Phased Vaccination Programme

Everyone who is eligible for a free flu jab will be contacted in writing in the coming weeks with details of how to make an appointment. These letters will not all be sent out at the same time and instead will be staggered to ensure those most at clinical risk are prioritised.

Phase 1 from October 2020

The following groups are eligible for the flu vaccine from October :

  • Anyone aged 65 and over by 31 March 2021 (will receive a letter from end of September 2020)
  • Anyone under 65 with an eligible health condition (will receive a letter from mid-October 2020)

    Flu vaccination letters for under 65’s living in Fife with an eligible health condition were issued on the 8 and 9 October.

    To enable us to manage the volume of appointments and vaccine supply, those who have received a letter are asked to access nhsinform.scot/flu and follow the 'How to get the flu vaccine in your area' guide week beginning 19 October 2020.

    From this date we will be able to provide an update on contact details you require to enable you to arrange an appointment at one of the available vaccination locations in Fife.

    These appointments will be available throughout October, November, and December. Please be reassured there is no shortage of appointments.

  • Unpaid and young carers
    More information
  • Pregnant women
    More information
  • Healthcare workers
    More information
  • Social care workers who provide direct personal care
    More information
  • All primary school children
    More information
  • Children aged 2 to 5 (children must be aged 2 years or above on 1 September 2020 and not yet in school)

Phase 2 from December 2020: 

  • Those aged 55 to 64 (by 31 March 2021) who would not usually be eligible will also be offered the vaccine from December.
    More information

If you are not entitled to a free vaccine 

If you're 16 years old or over and not eligible for the free vaccination you can get the vaccine in many community pharmacies for a fee.


Changes to the way you get your vaccination

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about changes to the way the flu vaccination in Scotland is carried out, with the campaign this year being delivered by health boards rather than individual GP practices.

The flu campaign this year is starting much earlier than in previous years and runs right through to December. Those eligible will receive a letter asking them to make an appointment to attend one of the many vaccination clinics taking place across Fife.

The new vaccination clinics are being held at community venues across the Kingdom. Moving to larger venues is essential to ensure that the appropriate physical distancing and infection prevention measures can be put in place to protect those attending and the healthcare staff running the clinics.

Accessing our flu clinics and hubs

When you have received a letter inviting you to make a flu vaccination appointment you should ring or email. Please do not contact us until you have your letter.

You will then be able to make an appointment at a local community vaccination centre  (like the one pictured above) or other suitable venue.

In a lot of cases this is likely to be a community vaccination centre, rather than at your GP surgery and not all of the community venues will be those normally used for health care.

NHS Fife has taken steps to make our vaccination clinics and hubs as accessible as possible, with over 65’s offered an appointment at their nearest cluster clinic or Immunisation Hub if this is closer to home.

In cases where you have mobility issues or are housebound, you will be vaccinated by your district nursing team as in previous years.

Please remember that there are no drop-in services in operation at any of these sites, even if it is a health centre.

Reported issues with booking flu appointments in Fife

There has been a huge response from those looking to arrange their annual flu jab across Fife this year. Our phone lines have been exceptionally busy so far and we are aware that many people have experienced difficulties getting through.

We have put in place a number of measures to increase the capacity we have available to arrange appointments. While this has allowed us to begin tackling the backlog of calls and correspondence we have had, we appreciate that some people have continued to experience difficulties making an appointment and we apologise unreservedly.

If you have already left a message by phone or email please do not get in touch – our call handling team will be in contact with you to arrange your appointment at a location best suited to your individual circumstance.

In order that we can maximise the number of appointments we can make, it is vital that only those who have received a letter inviting them to arrange their flu jab should contact us.

Please do not contact your GP practice, as they cannot book or reschedule your appointment. Please wait on your invite letter.

Community Pharmacies

NHS Fife welcomes the involvement of community pharmacy in the blended model of flu vaccination delivery this year.  You can view a list of participating pharmacies here.

Community Pharmacy will be the first choice vaccination provider for “Care at home” social care workers and they will receive a letter/voucher by email to present in the pharmacy showing their eligibility for the service.

For all other eligible groups, the first choice of vaccination will be a centrally organised appointment based system for attendance at a variety of venues across Fife.

Given the increase in vaccinations required to be administered this year and the COVID-19 guidelines on social distancing Community Pharmacies have limited capacity, compared to previous years.

To address this new hub/cluster clinics have been specifically set up to deal with the huge number of vaccinations required this year (over 100,000) There are plenty appointments and vaccines for everyone and the Fife Community Pharmacy team will be working with NHS Fife to ensure that everyone who is eligible for the flu vaccination receives theirs over the coming weeks until December.

Why are GP Practices not doing the normal Flu Vaccination programme this year?

More than a third of the Fife population are eligible to be vaccinated this year and this would not have been possible for our GPs to do with the impact of COVID. It was therefore agreed across Scotland, that with the flu programme being extended, vaccinations taking longer and needing to be done by individual appointment that it was necessary for the vaccinations to be provided in a number of different ways.

This will allow our GP practices to continue to manage their normal day to day services while they have to work differently because of COVID-19.