NHS encourage us to protect ourselves and others by getting vaccinated

Eligible people who’ve not yet come forward for the flu and COVID-19 vaccines are being urged to ‘get winter strong’ and join the millions of others in taking up the offer ahead of the festive and new year season when flu and COVID-19 are expected to peak.

Eligible people for the flu and COVID-19 vaccines include pregnant women, those aged 65 or over, carers, people with certain health conditions including a learning disability, those who live with someone with a weakened immune system, people living in a care home and frontline health or social care workers. 

The children’s nasal spray flu vaccine is offered every year to protect children against flu. It is for children aged 2 or 3 years on 31 August 2023, all primary school children and some secondary school aged children. 

How to get the flu vaccine

If you're eligible for an NHS flu vaccine, you can:

  • contact your GP surgery to book an appointment
  • find a pharmacy that offers NHS flu vaccination (if you're aged 18 or over)
  • book a flu vaccination appointment online or in the NHS App (if you're aged 18 or over)

Some people may be able to get vaccinated through their maternity service, care home or their employer if they are a frontline health or social care worker.

You do not have to wait for an invitation before booking an appointment.

How to get the COVID-19 vaccine

If you're eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, you can:

  • book a COVID-19 vaccination appointment online 

Who's most at risk from cold weather?

Some people are more vulnerable to the effects of cold weather. This includes:

  • people aged 65 and older
  • babies and children under the age of 5
  • people on a low income (so cannot afford heating)
  • people who have a long-term health condition
  • people with a disability
  • pregnant women
  • people who have a mental health condition

Get advice if you feel unwell

If you're 65 or over, or in one of the other at-risk groups, it's important to get medical help as soon as you feel unwell.

You can get help and advice from:

  • a pharmacy – pharmacists can give treatment advice for a range of minor illnesses and can tell you if you need to see a doctor
  • your GP – you may be able to speak to a GP online or over the phone, or go in for an appointment if they think you need to
  • NHS 111 – go to 111.nhs.uk or call 111 if you have an urgent medical problem and you are not sure what to do

The sooner you get advice, the sooner you're likely to get better.

In an emergency, go to A&E immediately or call 999.

Keep warm and get help with heating

Keeping warm over the winter months can help to prevent colds, flu and more serious health problems such as heart attacks, strokes, pneumonia and depression.

Heat your home to a temperature that's comfortable for you. If you can, this should be at least 18°C in the rooms that you regularly use, such as your living room and bedroom. This is particularly important if you have a health condition. It's best to keep your bedroom windows closed at night.

Check your heating and cooking appliances are safe. Contact a Gas Safe registered engineer to make sure they're working properly. You can find an engineer from the Gas Safe Register website.

Make sure you're getting all the help that you're entitled to. There are grants, benefits and advice available to make your home more energy efficient, improve your heating or help with bills.

Look in on vulnerable neighbours and relatives

Remember that other people, such as older neighbours, friends and family members, may need some extra help over the winter. There's a lot you can do to help people who need support.

Icy pavements and roads can be very slippery, and cold weather can stop people from going out.

Keep in touch with your friends, neighbours and family and ask if they need any practical help, or if they're feeling unwell.

Make sure they're stocked up with enough food supplies for a few days, in case they cannot go out.

If they do need to go out in the cold, encourage them to wear shoes with a good grip and a scarf around the mouth to protect them from cold air, and to reduce their risk of chest infections.

Make sure they get any prescription medicines before the holiday period starts and if bad weather is forecast.

If they need help over the holiday period when the GP surgery or pharmacy is closed or they're not sure what to do, go to 111.nhs.uk or call 111.

If you're worried about a relative or elderly neighbour, contact your local council or call the Age UK helpline on 0800 678 1602 (8am to 7pm every day).