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Summary of influenza immunisation policy

Recommendations for the use of the vaccines

  • The objectives of the influenza immunisation programme are to protect those who are most at risk of serious illness or death should they develop influenza and to reduce transmission of the infection, thereby contributing to the protection of vulnerable patients who may have a suboptimal response to their own immunisations
  • Influenza vaccine should be offered, ideally before influenza viruses start to circulate, to:
    • all those aged 65 years or older (for definition please see the annual flu letter for the coming/current season)
    • all those aged six months or older in the clinical risk groups shown in the table below
    • children not in clinical risk groups that are eligible for vaccination as part of the ongoing phased roll out of the extension of the programme to all children aged two to less than seventeen years old*
* Please see the respective annual flu letters for England and the Devolved Administrations for specific details on the cohorts of children that are eligible for influenza vaccination.


Clinical risk groups who should receive the influenza immunisation

  • Influenza vaccine should be offered to people in the clinical risk categories set out below
Clinical risk categoryExamples (this list is not exhaustive and decisions should be based on clinical judgement)

Chronic respiratory disease

Asthma that requires continuous or repeated use of inhaled or systemic steroids or with previous exacerbations requiring hospital admission.


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) including chronic bronchitis and emphysema; bronchiectasis, cystic fibrosis, interstitial lung fibrosis, pneumoconiosis, and bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD).


Children who have previously been admitted to hospital for lower respiratory tract disease.


See full guideline precautions section on live attenuated influenza vaccine

Chronic heart disease

Congenital heart disease, hypertension with cardiac complications, chronic heart failure, individuals requiring regular medication and/or follow-up for ischaemic heart disease.

Chronic kidney disease

Chronic kidney disease at stage 3, 4, or 5, chronic kidney failure, nephrotic syndrome, kidney transplantation.

Chronic liver disease

Cirrhosis, biliary atresia, and chronic hepatitis.

Chronic neurological disease (included in the DES directions for Wales)

Stroke, transient ischaemic attack (TIA). Conditions in which respiratory function may be compromised due to neurological disease (e.g. polio syndrome sufferers). Clinicians should offer immunisation, based on individual assessment, to clinically vulnerable individuals including those with cerebral palsy, learning disabilities, multiple sclerosis and related, or similar conditions; or hereditary and degenerative disease of the nervous system or muscles; or severe neurological disability


Type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes requiring insulin or oral hypoglycaemic drugs, diet controlled diabetes.

Immunosuppression (see full guideline contraindications and precautions section on live attenuated influenza vaccine)

Immunosuppression due to disease or treatment, including patients undergoing chemotherapy leading to immunosuppression, bone marrow transplant, HIV infection at all stages, multiple myeloma or genetic disorders affecting the immune system (e.g. IRAK-4, NEMO, complement disorder).


Individuals treated with or likely to be treated with systemic steroids for more than a month at a dose equivalent to prednisolone at 20 mg or more per day (any age), or for children under 20 kg, a dose of 1 mg or more per kg per day


It is difficult to define at what level of immunosuppression a patient could be considered to be at a greater risk of the serious consequences of influenza and should be offered influenza vaccination. This decision is best made on an individual basis and left to the patient’s clinician.


Some immunocompromised patients may have a suboptimal immunological response to the vaccine.

Asplenia or dysfunction of the spleen

This also includes conditions such as homozygous sickle cell disease and coeliac syndrome that may lead to splenic dysfunction.

Pregnant women

Pregnant women at any stage of pregnancy (first, second, or third trimesters).


See full guideline precautions section on live attenuated influenza vaccine

Morbid obesity 

(class III obesity)*

Adults with a body mass index ≥40 kg/m2

* Many of this patient group will already be eligible due to complications of obesity that place them in another risk category

Other groups

  • The list above is not exhaustive, and the medical practitioner should apply clinical judgment to take into account the risk of influenza exacerbating any underlying disease that a patient may have, as well as the risk of serious illness from influenza itself
  • Vaccination should also be offered to household contacts of immunocompromised individuals, i.e. individuals who expect to share living accommodation on most days over the winter and therefore for whom continuing close contact is unavoidable
  • In addition to the above, immunisation should be provided to healthcare and social care workers in direct contact with patients/clients to protect them and to reduce the transmission of influenza within health and social care premises, to contribute to the protection of individuals who may have a suboptimal response to their own immunisations, and to avoid disruption to services that provide their care. This would include:
    • health and social care staff directly involved in the care of their patients or clients
    • those living in long-stay residential care homes or other long-stay care facilities where rapid spread is likely to follow introduction of infection and cause high morbidity and mortality (this does not include prisons, young offender institutions, university halls of residence etc.)
    • those who are in receipt of a carer’s allowance, or those who are the main carer of an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if the carer falls ill. Vaccination should be given on an individual basis at the GP’s discretion in the context of other clinical risk groups in their practice
    • others involved directly in delivering health and social care such that they and vulnerable patients/clients are at increased risk of exposure to influenza (further information is provided in guidance from UK health departments)


  • The inactivated influenza vaccines should normally be given into the upper arm (or anterolateral thigh in infants) preferably by intramuscular injection. Influenza vaccines licensed for intramuscular or subcutaneous administration may alternatively be administered by the subcutaneous route
  • Individuals on stable anticoagulation therapy, including individuals on warfarin who are up-to-date with their scheduled International Normalised Ratio (INR) testing and whose latest INR was below the upper threshold of their therapeutic range, can receive intramuscular vaccination
    • a fine needle (equal to 23 gauge or finer calibre) should be used for the vaccination, followed by firm pressure applied to the site (without rubbing) for at least 2 minutes
    • if in any doubt, consult with the clinician responsible for prescribing or monitoring the individual’s anticoagulant therapy
  • Individuals with bleeding disorders may be vaccinated intramuscularly if, in the opinion of a doctor familiar with the individual’s bleeding risk, vaccines or similar small volume intramuscular injections can be administered with reasonable safety by this route
    • a fine needle (equal to 23 gauge or finer calibre) should be used for the vaccination, followed by firm pressure applied to the site (without rubbing) for at least 2 minutes
    • the individual/parent/carer should be informed about the risk of haematoma from the injection
  • The live attenuated influenza vaccine is administered by the intranasal route and is supplied in an applicator that allows a divided dose to be administered in each nostril (total dose of 0.2 ml, 0.1 ml in each nostril):
    • administration of either dose does not need to be repeated if the patient sneezes or blows their nose following administration
    • as heavy nasal congestion might impede delivery of the vaccine to the nasopharyngeal mucosa, deferral of administration until resolution of the nasal congestion should be considered, or if appropriate, an alternative intramuscularly administered influenza vaccine
  • Inactivated influenza vaccines can be given at the same time as other vaccines. The live attenuated vaccine can also be given at the same time as other live or inactivated vaccines
  • Intramuscular and intradermal vaccines should be given at separate sites, preferably in a different limb. If given in the same limb, they should be given at least 2.5 cm apart
  • After immunisation, protective immune responses may be achieved within 14 days
  • Although influenza activity is not usually significant in the UK before the middle of November, the influenza season can start early, therefore the ideal time for immunisation is between September and early November
Influenza vaccines for the 2018/19 influenza season
Supplier Product details Vaccine type Age indications Ovalbumin content micrograms/ml (micrograms/dose)Contact details

AstraZeneca UK Ltd

Fluenz Tetra▼

Live attenuated, nasal (quadrivalent)

From 24 months to less than 18 years of age

≤0.12 (<0.024/0.2 ml dose)

0845 139 0000


FluarixTM Tetra▼

Split virion inactivated virus (quadrivalent)

From 6 months

≤0.1 (≤0.05/0.5 ml dose)

0800 221 441


Quadrivalent influenza vaccine (split virion, inactivated)▼

Split virion, inactivated virus

From 6 months

≤0.1 (≤0.05/0.5 ml dose)

0113 238 7552

Mylan (BGP Products)

Influvac® sub-unit


Influenza vaccine MYL

Surface antigen, inactivated virus (trivalent)

From 6 months

0.2 (0.1/0.5 ml dose)

0800 358 7468

Quadrivalent Influenza vaccine Tetra MYL▼

Quadrivalent Influvac sub-unit Tetra▼

Influenza virus surface antigen (inactivated)

From 18 years

0.2 (0.1/0.5 ml dose)

Pfizer Vaccines

Influenza vaccine (split virion, inactivated), pre-filled syringe

Split virion, inactivated virus (trivalent)

From 5 years

≤2 (≤1/0.5 ml dose)

0800 089 4033

Sanofi Pasteur Vaccines

Quadrivalent influenza vaccine (split virion, inactivated)▼

Split virion, inactivated virus

From 6 months

≤0.1 (≤0.05/0.5 ml dose)

0800 854 430

Seqirus UK Ltd


Surface antigen, inactivated, Adjuvanted
with MF59C.1 (trivalent)

65 years of age and over

≤0.4 (≤0.2/0.5 ml dose)

08457 451 500

† None of the influenza vaccines for the 2018/2019 season contain thiomersal as an added preservative
‡ Note, the ovalbumin content is provided in units of μg/ml and μg/dose

Adverse reactions

  • Pain, swelling or redness at the injection site, low grade fever, malaise, shivering, fatigue, headache, myalgia and arthralgia are among the commonly reported symptoms after intramuscular or intradermal vaccination
  • A small painless nodule (induration) may also form at the injection site. These symptoms usually disappear within one to two days without treatment. Nasal congestion/rhinorrhoea, reduced appetite, weakness, and headache are common adverse reactions following administration of the live attenuated intranasal vaccine
  • Immediate reactions such as urticaria, angio-oedema, bronchospasm, and anaphylaxis can occur


  • The summaries of product characteristics for individual products should always be referred to when deciding which vaccine to give. There are very few individuals who cannot receive any influenza vaccine. When there is doubt, appropriate advice should be sought promptly from the screening and immunisation team in the NHS England area team, a consultant in communicable disease control or a consultant paediatrician, so that the period the individual is left unvaccinated is minimised
  • None of the influenza vaccines should be given to those who have had:
    • a confirmed anaphylactic reaction to a previous dose of the vaccine, or
    • a confirmed anaphylactic reaction to any component of the vaccine (other than ovalbumin—see full guideline precautions section)

full guideline from…

Public Health England. Influenza vaccine: ovalbumin content. August 2018.
Public Health England. Influenza: the green book, chapter 19. August 2018.
First included: October 2011, updated August 2018.